For Melanie Masarin, founder and CEO of Ghia, the perfect solution for a non-alcoholic drink that replaces a lively spirit did not exist: so she created it.
Do not call Ghia a cocktail without alcohol although. Ghia is sugar-free and its flavor profile is pleasantly bitter (reminiscent of an Amaro, an Italian herbal liqueur), vibrant and fresh – an appetizer that reminded Masarin of his childhood summer days in the south of France with her family, while growing up near the Mediterranean. These were times spent entertaining friends, cooking together, and having conversations that lasted until dawn.
As a result, Ghia is a brand of non-alcoholic drinks inspired by the Mediterranean aperitif culture, designed to change the way we think about drinking and socializing. As Masarin says, “We want to remove the word ‘drink’ from alcohol. ”
Ghia is intended to create a aperitif hour, which like these memories, invites everyone to the table and transports people to a place of simple pleasures and connection (without numbing the night).
Since launching in June 2020, Ghia has already received high praise and a lot of buzz, from posts like The New York Times, Vogue and Enjoy your meal (in his Highly recommend column, devoted to what people in the food industry are obsessed with eating, drinking and buying right now). Ghia was also the first alcohol-free brand to win Squire“Drink of the year” in 2020, a coveted award in the magazine’s annual “Best Restaurants” list.
Ghia’s flagship product, the Aperitif, and ready-to-drink Spritz cans, have received accolades from taste makers like Priyanka Chopra, Chef Antoni Porowski and Jessica Alba, and a growing number of restaurants and hotels continue. to add Ghia cocktails to their menus as they reopen.
Tired of feeling like she needed an explanation for refusing to drink alcohol when going out with friends, Masarin became passionate about creating a drink that people could lean into and Choose to drink, just because it’s delicious. No explanation needed.
“I think Ghia’s idea was right in front of my eyes for a few years,” Masarin shares. “And it was a personal frustration for me, not knowing what to drink when I went out and being questioned often for not drinking.”
While in Italy with a friend (next door: one of the founders of Sweetgreen, for whom Masarin also does interior design work), Masarin was pondering his next career development. She had just finished her role at Glossier and was focusing on consulting projects.
Over lunch, she shared that there was nothing for her to drink and that she cheered it up when she celebrated with others, and expressed her wish for a cool non-alcoholic option. , high and delicious.
His lunch mate said, “Well, I think we’ve figured out what you’re going to do next.”
Masarin knew then that it was time to dive into this project head first. To create Ghia, she opened the bottle to all of her personal passions and professional experience in retail and hospitality, and set to work on creating the signature formula that would become Ghia.
Ghia was launched in June 2020 with its flagship product, The Apéritif (“OG Bitter”), with notes of citrus and flowers, and a blend of healthy ingredients and powerful extracts of natural nervines, including gentian root, lemon balm, fig, and elderflower (and no added sugar).
For Masarin, a big part of Ghia is in the experience and the emotional elements that are all woven together in the beautiful bottle and unboxing.
Building a brand on the pillars of the experiential has been a key part of Masarin’s career: she was named among the Forbes 30 Under 30, in the Retail and E-commerce category in 2018, when she held the Head of Retail and Offline position. Experiences at Glossier.
At Glossier, Masarin led the offline and experiential strategy, including the creative direction of his showrooms, the development of pop-ups, and the conceptualization of permanent spaces. Previously, she was Creative Director and Chief Marketing Officer of Dig Inn, where she led the rebranding of the company, overseeing everything from messaging and communications to store design, branding. branding, digital presence, paid advertising and offline marketing.
(Glossier founder Emily Weiss has a small angel investment in Ghia. When Masarin introduced her to the idea in her early days – without platform or official brand name – only a proof of concept and a deep passion behind the idea, Weiss said, “I’ve seen your eyes shine with ideas like this before. So I will invest in you, I believe in you. “)
The element of experience and the emotion aroused played a more critical role for Masarin, when she ended up launching Ghia at the height of the pandemic, in June 2020.
Suddenly, the Masarin beverage brand became an e-commerce based business, which meant that every element of the Ghia moment had to surprise and delight consumers.
Fortunately, Masarin had hired a brand identity and design agency. Perron-Roettinger to create Ghia’s bottle, the bespoke font and rich packaging details. Ghia’s unboxing experience includes an intricate recipe guide featuring Ghia in the lead role, as well as coasters with sayings such as “From Sunset to Sunrise” and “Joined at the Sip” .
The industry loves to label products and put the brands in a box. Therefore, Ghia strives to be very transparent and clear about her philosophy.
“We spent so many hours designing the label and making sure it would stand out and grab attention in a crowded bar. For us, it was really about creating that invitation to participate, to make it really non-intimidating for people to enjoy a night without drinking. I like to think of it as a party drink. It’s a really happy brand. It’s to cheer you up and prove that alcohol isn’t the life of the party. You are The life of the party. And so it’s all in the details.
Of course, going to market during the pandemic came with its fair share of challenges and learning: “The main challenge for us was that we really wanted to launch in person and that people to try Ghia. And we couldn’t do it because all the restaurants were closed and no one was able to assemble. And so we really had to turn to an online strategy – that’s where every detail counts. When receiving a package during Covid, in the scariest times, I wanted every part of the experience to be special. “
Part of that experience meant that when Ghia first launched, Masarin and his team wrote messages to each customer, making over 1,200 notes.
“At the start of the pandemic when we first launched, 10% of Ghia’s orders were free, which was so nice,” Masarin shares. “It was a way for people to connect remotely. And when things got really tough for me, I would often read the gift notes to cheer myself up, and they included everything from celebrating new pregnancies, birthdays, or just being away from friends. It became like “cheers” from afar.
One key point to note: Even with ever-growing consumer trends like Dry January and the sober curious movement, Ghia’s ethics aren’t necessarily a call to action to participate in Dry January and give up on it. alcohol: it’s a call to action to enjoy moments of conviviality.
In less than a year since its launch, Ghia has grown to more than 350 retailers and has become a staple of bar cart in households nationwide. The company saw a 40% increase in customer numbers in dry January alone and has maintained a 35% customer return rate since.
In April 2021, Ghia expanded its offering with Le Spritz, a ready-to-drink single-serve can that features Ghia’s signature formula balanced with a little sparkling water and an added touch of yuzu and rosemary – a preparation that is become a home recipe favorite among customers. Next is the Ghia Ginger, an 8-ounce can both refreshing and warm beverage, perfect for blustery fall days, featuring Ghia’s original formula with fresh ginger juice, responsibly sourced wildflower honey, a hint of black pepper and a splash of water sparkling for a soft drink with a slow combustion.
(This launch is not only informed by a popular customer brew of Ghia and Ginger Beer, but follows the success of its first RTD release, The Spritz, which has sold over 100,000 cans since its launch in April 2021. .)
The “Spritz” cans were also designed by Perron-Roettinger as an extension of the original identity and bottle design for which the brand has become known – the design highlights the aluminum of the can, echoing product transparency. Ghia’s cans are 100% recyclable, with no plastics or labels that burn during the recycling process.
In November, Ghia expanded its assortment to include food, with the launch of Le Works Holiday Box, which includes a bottle of Ghia, a mini panettone, a natural chocolate-hazelnut spread (his exclusive Ghianduja), all in a souvenir box, and The Spritz Mix, which is his signature four-pack with two cans of The Spritz and two cans of Ghia Ginger.
And as part of an ever-growing soft drink category, Masarin is making sure to keep the blinders on.
“My inspiration does not come from other brands of soft drinks. It comes from travel, it comes from moments together, it comes from music, it comes from culture. It comes from old design – 60s and 70s design – a lot of furniture design, a lot of architecture – the things that I like. It comes from my roots of growing up in Europe and spending all my summers in the Mediterranean, it comes from my grandmother’s cookbook and her homemade limoncello made from freshly picked lemons. It comes from all of these things.
A brand philosophy is to be social, to feel the desire to bring together and share stories, moments and memories. It is the antithesis of being “under the influence” of alcohol, as the slogan on the box says: “Under the influence”.
Masarin has always been inspired by the mantra: “How you spend your days is how you spend your life”. This guides her when it comes to building Ghia and making her a timeless brand, for everyone: “I want Ghia to be like a friend forever. I want my kids to drink Ghia. So maybe we’ll take a slower, but a little more focused, approach. And I hope that will delight people along the way. “