Pour It Up: Beverage Brands Cash in on LA's Sobriety Trend

Andria Moore

Andria is the Social and Engagement Editor for dot.LA. She previously covered internet trends and pop culture for BuzzFeed, and has written for Insider, The Washington Post and the Motion Picture Association. She obtained her bachelor's in journalism from Auburn University and an M.S. in digital audience strategy from Arizona State University. In her free time, Andria can be found roaming LA's incredible food scene or lounging at the beach.

Pour It Up: Beverage Brands Cash in on LA's Sobriety Trend
Melati, Leisure Project, XICAMA

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The drink to impress mentality has permeated tech and startup culture for nearly a decade. But with the rise in popularity of brands like Olipop and Liquid Death, that’s all about to change.


Meagan Loyst, the 26-year-old founder of Gen Z VCs, a global collective of young investors, students, entrepreneurs and founders said there has been a noticeable shift in how she and her peers interact with alcohol, especially in professional settings.

“If you think about Gen Z, we’re max 26 years old,” Loyst said. “Even the people that can drink alcohol are choosing not to.”

To her point, in 2018, Insider reported that Gen Z drink alcohol about 20% less than millennials did at their age, and millennials already less than boomers. According to the BBC, part of the shift in Gen Z’s sober preference is that 41% associate alcohol with anxiety, abuse and vulnerability. But the shift in preference toward non-alcoholic beverages isn’t merely a tendency amongst Gen Z, but large portions of L.A.’s tech scene.

While hosting various events across Los Angeles, Loyst has also noticed an increased demand for non-alcoholic beverage options among attendees.

“I think part of it is wellness, just feeling good,” she explained. “Alcohol doesn’t always make you feel good. And I think for optimal performance — both for your brain and even your gut health — I know that for me to operate on a Thursday night at a happy hour, if I have one or two glasses of champagne I won’t be productive for one or two hours.”

Here are three L.A. startups looking to capitalize on the sober moment in SoCal.

Melati

Upon first glance, Melati’s rustic color palette and elegant branding style are reminiscent of a bottle of high-end booze. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Melati, a non-alcoholic botanical spirit, is a plant-based alternative to alcohol.

“Instead of doing dealcoholizing or extracting an ethanol, I wanted to make something that was super inclusive for everyone who wasn't drinking,” said 30-year-old Melati Founder Lorin Winata. “So I do a cold extraction in water for six weeks.”

Winata is Indonesian and grew up in Singapore. “Throughout Asia, we have tonic drink remedies that have been used for centuries to kind of be more preventative medicine than curative,” she explained. “So Melati drinks are a blend of 20 ingredients for the fresh flavor and then 25 Ingredients for the classic, of these Asian botanicals used in tonic drink remedies.”

Before Melati, Winata worked in venture capital helping startups grow from an early stage, and was constantly attending happy hours, dinners, events — all of which included alcohol.

“I didn't used to drink in work situations, just with traveling one to three times a week, not sleeping much, trying to get my workout in, and also just trying to attend every single work event and happy hour that’s needed in my career,” she said. “Alcohol just didn’t serve that purpose.”

Which is why creating a drink that was both delicious and could fit into the drinking culture of the tech world was important to Winata.

“I wanted something else that still had the complexity of flavor,” she said. “And that still, you know, gave me that same experience and gave me that glass in my hand.”

Leisure Project

Like many people, 29-year-old Steve Michaelsen was sitting at his parents house in the early days of COVID, bored out of his mind and realizing he was having a difficult time focusing on work.

“I mentally just like, wasn't there a lot of the time,” he said. “And I started to realize, ‘Oh, s**t, I haven't had water today.’ I was dehydrated all the time and it was leaving me irritable, constant headaches, and unfocused.”

After discovering his brother had a similar issue, they began to shop around for products to help keep them hydrated.

“There's liquid IPs that are essentially Gatorade, there's Pedialytes, there's electrolytes, there's all these powders, but there isn't a lifestyle hydration drink that just helps you feel good,” he said.

As a former digital brand manager at Nike, it didn’t take long for Michaelsen to form a plan of action. In 2022, with the help of his brother and co-founder Alex, they launched Leisure Project, a non alcoholic, “hydration drink that has a unique electrolyte complex compared to legacy brands that are primarily sugar and sodium," Michaelsen explained. "We over index on electrolytes that have benefits for both mind and body like magnesium, potassium, chlorides and trace minerals, with only a small amount of sodium. We also infuse functional ingredients like L-Theanine and Ashwaganda that are known to help lift your mood."

The brothers positioned Leisure Project to be a modern vitamin enhanced water beverage. But Michaelsen said, “a lot of people during dry January were buying us and putting us in a wine glass and drinking it like an alcohol replacement.”

Michaelsen thinks the success of Leisure Project can be attributed largely to Gen Z’s sobering, but also the cultural shift of there being “less pressure” to drink in public settings.

“Brands that are winning are the ones that are saying, ‘We're here to help you feel good,’” he said.

XICAMA

Mona Sharma was working in luxury cosmetics before two heart surgeries as a result from anxiety and lack of sleep led her to rethink her life. “I could see my heart on the monitor and the doctor said, ‘You might have to wear a pacemaker for the rest of your life,’” the 41-year-old Sharma recounted.

That reality check propelled Sharma back into her Ayurvedic roots — a large part of which included regularly incorporating jicama into her diet.

“The model in my house growing up was food is medicine,” she said. “So knowing this when I started working with my clients, I started using Jicama.”

But it wasn’t until her husband randomly suggested one afternoon that jicama might taste good in a drink that her entrepreneurial journey began.

“By chance we partnered with these world famous mixologists [Barlab] who made us these three flavors— this is not even knowing we were going to start a beverage brand — and a couple weeks later they called us and said, ‘Hey do you guys want to be an official beverage of Coachella?’” she said.

They ended up with record-breaking sales at Coachella in 2019 and would have taken their brand into hospitality if not for COVID.

Despite that hiccup, XICAMA has still found success.

“Especially in California, there is a bigger trend to enjoy a non-alcoholic drink, but something that’s still delicious,” she said. “So you don’t really feel like you’re missing out on the act of fun or enjoyment.”

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🚁 One Step Closer to Air Taxis in LA
Image Source: Joby Aviation

🔦 Spotlight

Joby Aviation, a pioneering electric air taxi company, has achieved a significant milestone by successfully flying a hydrogen-electric aircraft demonstrator for 523 miles with only water as a byproduct. This groundbreaking flight showcases the potential for emissions-free regional travel using vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, eliminating the need for traditional runways. The company's innovative approach combines its existing battery-electric air taxi technology with hydrogen fuel cells, paving the way for longer-range, environmentally friendly air travel.

For LA residents, this development holds exciting implications for future transportation options. Joby's technology could potentially enable direct flights from LA to destinations like San Francisco or San Diego without the need to visit conventional airports, offering a cleaner and more convenient alternative to current travel methods. The company's progress in both battery-electric and hydrogen-electric aircraft positions it at the forefront of next-generation aviation, promising to revolutionize urban and regional mobility.

Notably, Joby Aviation has already made strides in Southern California by securing an agreement with John Wayne Airport earlier this year to install the region's first electric air taxi charger. This strategic move sets the stage for LA to be among the initial markets where Joby will launch its electric air taxi service. With plans to commence commercial operations as early as 2025 using its battery-electric air taxi, LA residents may soon have access to a fast, quiet, and environmentally friendly mode of transportation that could significantly reduce travel times and traffic congestion in the region. In the not too distant future, LA might find itself in an identity crisis without traffic and excess smog 🤞🤞.


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Fuel Innovation: 7 Unforgettable Team Building Experiences in LA
Image Source: Discover LA

In today's competitive business landscape, team building activities have emerged as a crucial tool for fostering a positive work environment, enhancing productivity, and crucially, improving employee retention. Studies have shown that such activities help employees feel valued, with one report indicating that 93% of those who felt appreciated were more motivated at work. Importantly, team building events may improve retention rates, as employees who feel connected to their colleagues and company culture are more likely to stay long-term. With these benefits in mind, let's explore some of the most engaging and effective team building activities available in Los Angeles.

Pickleball

Image Source: Modern Luxury Angelino

Pickleball is a fantastic team bonding activity because of the easy-to-grasp rules and gentle pace make it perfect for everyone, regardless of age or fitness level. The game thrives on communication and teamwork, as players must collaborate and strategize to outplay their opponents, boosting team cohesion. Plus, the lively, fast-paced action sparks friendly competition and laughter, creating a fun and spirited atmosphere that brings everyone closer together. Los Angeles boasts numerous pickleball courts that are easy to rent if you have your own equipment. If you need additional assistance organizing your pickleball outing, there are plenty of full-service companies ready to handle every detail for you.

Resources: Pickle Pop, Corporate Pickle


Escape Room

Image Source: The Escape Game

Escape rooms are a great way to build camaraderie. They require participants to work together, combining their problem-solving skills and creativity to overcome challenges and puzzles. The immersive and time-sensitive nature of escape rooms fosters collaboration and communication. Additionally, the shared experience of tackling complex tasks and reaching a common goal helps build trust and foster positive emotions among colleagues.

Resources: The Escape Game, 60Out


Day Trip to Catalina Island

Image Source: Love Catalina

Catalina Island is a perfect day trip for a team because it provides a break from the usual work environment, allowing team members to relax and connect in a new setting. Shared experiences during the trip, such as exploring new places and participating in fun activities, help build stronger relationships and foster a sense of camaraderie. There are numerous team-building activities such as an arboreal obstacle course, an island tour, scavenger hunts and more.

Resources: Catalina Island Group Activities


Top Golf

Image Source: Topgolf

Topgolf is an excellent team building event because it provides an inclusive, relaxed atmosphere that accommodates players of all skill levels, fostering personal connections and improving team morale. The unique blend of competition and entertainment creates an ideal setting for building trust, enhancing communication, and revealing hidden skills among team members. Additionally, Topgolf offers structured team building packages with guided activities, discussion prompts, and lessons on culture, change, collaboration, and strategy, making it a versatile and effective platform for strengthening relationships and boosting overall team performance.

Resources: Topgolf El Segundo


SoFi Stadium Tour

Image Source: Discover LA

A SoFi Stadium tour offers a unique, behind-the-scenes experience of one of the world's most advanced sports venues, allowing team members to explore exclusive areas like premium suites, team locker rooms, and the player tunnel together. The tour provides a shared, memorable experience that can foster camaraderie and spark conversations among team members, regardless of their interest in sports. Additionally, the stadium's state-of-the-art features and impressive architecture can inspire creativity and innovation, while the group setting encourages interaction and collaboration, making it an engaging and enjoyable activity for teams of various sizes and backgrounds

Resources: SoFi Stadium Group Tours


Corporate Volunteering

Image Source: L.A. Works

Volunteer work serves as an excellent team building activity by uniting employees around a shared, meaningful cause, fostering a sense of purpose and collective accomplishment. It provides opportunities for team members to collaborate in new ways, often revealing hidden strengths and leadership qualities that may not be apparent in the regular work environment. Additionally, engaging in community service can boost morale, enhance the company's reputation, and instill a sense of pride among employees, leading to improved workplace relationships and increased job satisfaction.

Resources: Habitat for Humanity, L.A. Works, VolunteerMatch


Corporate Improv Sessions

Image Source: Improv for the People

A corporate improv class encourages spontaneity, creativity, and quick thinking, skills that are valuable in the workplace. It promotes active listening and collaboration, as participants must work together to create scenes and respond to unexpected situations, fostering better communication and trust among team members. Additionally, the playful and often humorous nature of improv helps break down barriers, reduces stress, and creates a shared positive experience that can improve team morale and cohesion long after the event.

Resources: Improv-LA, Groundlings, Improv for the People

🎬 Paramount and Skydance Are Back On
Image Source: Paramount

Happy Friday Los Angeles! Hope you all had a fantastic Fourth!!

🔦 Spotlight

Paramount and Skydance Media have rekindled talks to merge after negotiations abruptly halted in June. The proposed deal, contingent on approval from Paramount’s board, aims to combine Paramount’s extensive media holdings—including CBS, MTV, and Nickelodeon—with Skydance’s film expertise showcased in hits like "Top Gun: Maverick." This merger signals a potential transformation in the media landscape, positioning the new entity to compete more effectively amid challenges from streaming services and the decline of traditional cable TV.

Led by Shari Redstone, Paramount’s controlling shareholder via National Amusements, the deal represents a pivot towards revitalizing Paramount’s strategic direction amidst financial struggles and shareholder concerns. The involvement of major investors like RedBird Capital Partners and David Ellison underscores the financial backing aimed at stabilizing Paramount’s operations and addressing its $14 billion debt burden. Importantly, the agreement includes provisions to protect National Amusements from potential legal challenges, addressing previous hurdles that stalled earlier negotiations.

The deal also includes a 45-day period for Paramount to explore alternative offers, highlighting continued interest from other potential buyers like Barry Diller’s IAC and media executive Edgar Bronfman Jr. This flurry of activity underscores the significant stakeholders’ interest in Paramount’s future and its potential as a key player in a rapidly evolving media industry.


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  • Sidecar Health, a startup that offers personalized health insurance plans to businesses that allow members to see any doctor and pay directly at the time of service, raised a $165M Series D led by Koch Disruptive Technologies. - learn more

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