February 21, 2023

We got to have an awesome chat with Benson, the founder of Knyota Drinks- a cute non-alcoholic shop located in Downtown Ottawa. We love seeing places like this popping up all over Canada. Read further to learn more about this awesome spot!
1) Please introduce yourself, and briefly describe your experience.

My name is Benson. I am a proud dad, husband, first generation Canadian, and the founder of Knyota Drinks. I came to the beverage industry with very little (i.e., no) experience in the space. So, the best way to think of me is as a passionate consumer first. I take every opportunity to collaborate and learn from the many knowledgeable people in the industry, and then I share what I find with anyone who will listen.

2) What inspired you to open Knyota Drinks?

Fatherhood motivated me to take a hard look and re-evaluate my lifestyle. After taking some time to reflect, I recognized that I had a destructive relationship with alcohol, so I decided to become one of the many people who do not drink alcohol on occasion or at all.

The story could have ended there, but I hated the customer experience I found in the market when I began searching for alternatives. I would find limited selection at stores, adult appropriate options would be in a back corner somewhere as an afterthought, sales associates couldn’t care less about the beverages, and the list goes on.

I decided to open Knyota Drinks to make it easier to shop for adult appropriate non-alcoholic drinks. Customers can come in to ask questions, buy as little or as much as they like, attend tastings, etc. A much better customer experience in my humble opinion.

3) Tell us more about Knyota Drinks!

Knyota means little star in Swahili. It doesn’t mean much to people outside the company, but I picked it to be a constant reminder of our mission to make it easier to shop for adult appropriate non-alcoholic drinks.

The role of beverages in bringing us together is undeniable. They are core to how we celebrate, relax, and socialize, but adult appropriate is not synonymous with containing alcohol. Knyota Drinks is for inclusive beverage experiences and that starts with providing people easy access to options.

4) What trends are you seeing in the Non-Alcoholic category?

We are doomed, if one more brewer makes another IPA or Pale Ale… I’m kidding! But, it’s a pet peeve of mine. I think some brewers are still finding room to innovate even in those saturated styles. Brewing to strength instead of dealcoholizing is an example of that innovation, but I personally find widening the breadth of beer styles on offer and experimenting with unique flavours is more exciting.
Red wines are hard to get right, but we are starting to see some really good ones come on the market.
In the distilled non-alcoholic spirits and mocktails side, I’m seeing more functional beverages that do not imitate any alcoholic beverages.
It’s a very competitive landscape for brands with a ton of great new products, and this is the most exciting trend because mediocre products won’t cut it anymore. Consumers better get ready for some fantastic options as the competition heats up!

5) What has been the biggest challenge so far?

Getting the word out! People are always excited to find out a store like Knyota Drinks exists, but it’s challenging to reach everyone to let them know especially on a small business marketing budget.

6) What makes a good Non-Alcoholic Beverage/Beer for you?

For me to like it, it has to be a fantastic non-alcoholic beer, wine, cocktail or a beverage that is totally unique.

If I’m reaching for a beer, I don’t want a poorly made non-alcoholic beer that doesn’t deliver the wonderful mouthfeel, aromas, and taste that I could find in a well-made beer.

If I’m not feeling like having what some folks refer to as an “imitation”, I might pick a drink based on uniqueness. I may look for an interesting nose or spice or something that excites the palate with bitter, tart, or sour flavours.

7) How do you find balance in your life?

A lot of people subscribe to work-life balance, which is awesome, but it’s not my reality. I’m more of a work-life choice person. I have constant competing priorities forcing me to make choices, so I have my predetermined list of importance that I reference whenever I must make a choice. Family, sleep, exercise, and being productive are very high on that list.

8) Do you have a favourite NA beverage?

I do! But, I don’t like answering this question. People come to the store and ask for my favourite products all the time, and I give them the same answer because it’s not about what I like. I start with what they like and guide them to what I think might be a fit. 

9) What’s next for Kynota Drinks?

Bigger selection presented to more people! I love discovering and sampling drinks with people, so this is where we are going to direct a lot of our energy.

Thanks so much for the chat Benson and thanks for all that you're doing for the NA movement! Be sure to check out Kynota Drinks website here and give them a follow on the socials.