Percival & Co. is a premium elderflower tonic brand based in Oxfordshire. They aim to explore the limits of the RTD (ready to drink) category of drinks without compromising on flavour or origin.
The drink has an apple wine base and uses elderflower and other local botanicals to create a light and refreshing lower-sugar, lower-alcohol, and lower-calorie alternative to the usual premixed drinks.
“I started working on Percival and Co., an innovative new drinks brand, whilst disillusioned by my career in finance. My fast-paced job and social life meant that, by default, I was able to conduct significant research into the alcoholic drinks industry and soon noticed a gap in the market for drinks with lower ABVs that focus on being high in quality.
After long days in the office I would be gasping for something to perk me but that was also refreshing and easy to drink. Regrettably from experience I know that several glasses of white wine or G&Ts on an empty stomach can prove hazardous, a pint feels a bit masculine, and the less alcoholic alternatives, like Crabbie’s and fruit ciders, are sickly and sugar laden.
It seemed ludicrous to me that relatively health conscious people (myself included) would spend hundreds of pounds a year on gym membership and organic food, pick their lunch based on calorie count, obsess over completing 10,000 steps a day, and then destroy all their virtuous doings in the pub that evening without any consideration as to the units of alcohol and hidden calories they were knocking back. The phenomenon of ‘healthy living’ has dominated almost all other food and beverage markets with natural, low calorie and low sugar products becoming extremely popular.
Why had this barely entered the alcoholic drinks industry?
I did some research and discovered that I was not alone in my quest for an alcoholic drink with a lower ABV and low sugar/calorie count. The new government guidelines for alcohol consumption introduced in January 2016 brought the recommended weekly intake down to 14 units for men and women. Although government guidelines hold limited sway there is strong evidence of consumers increasingly moderating their drinking. Total volume sales of alcoholic drinks have been flat between 2013-16 and 51% of consumers claim to be drinking less than they did a few years ago.
Besides financial reasons, this moderation is driven by people actively cutting back on their consumption for weight management and health concerns. We are all well aware that sugar, over the last few years, has emerged as Public Enemy No. 1. 56% of adults are actively taking steps to reduce their intake, 24% of adults who drink alcohol claim to consider the calorie content when choosing what to drink (rising to 36% of 18-34 year olds), yet bizarrely very few alcoholic drinks reference a low calorie count or a low/reduced/free from sugar claim.
I set out to work on creating drinks that would tick all of these boxes. Growing up on a farm where we had always made elderflower cordial the hedgerows seems liked an obvious place to start.
My drinks have come a long way since I started making them all by hand to sell at music festivals and other events. Although delicious, they were extremely hazardous and I often felt like I was playing a starring role in Hurt Locker with bottles blowing up at random due to a problematic fermentation process, and others having to be detonated in my kitchen to avoid explosion at a later date. Much to the relief of my friends and family, who were fed up of being roped in to pick elderflower and squeeze lemons at every possible occasion, the cottage industry approach did not turn out not to be sustainable and the project was put on hold whilst I explored a career in the City.
However, several years later and after a few tweaks to the recipe and production method the drinks are now perfected, and the result is our lightly sparkling and utterly reinvigorating Hard Tonics. They have an ABV of 4%, are low in calories and sugar, gluten free, vegan friendly and made from 100% natural ingredients. Although born out of the after-work drinks conundrum they are a perfect pick me up for any occasion and particularly good for British Summertime and all the ‘session drinking’ at picnics, sporting events, festivals and weddings that it encompasses.”