We connected with Anika Sawni (Co-Founder) and her boyfriend, Alex (who has IBD), from Grüvi - the makers behind the chic, craft brewed, non-alcoholic beverage brand - to chat about how alcohol affects the gut, and how their non-alcoholic beverages are a great alternative to alcohol for those looking to reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption.
The Gut Gazette (TGG): First off, what’s the story behind creating Grüvi? Why did you decide to get into the non-alcoholic drink industry?
Anika: Our family has always been very health-focused, especially my dad who is constantly looking for the next life hack to be his best self. Naturally, we started to question our relationship with alcohol, wondering where this fit in if we are trying to lead a healthier life. As we started to explore the non-alcoholic options, we found that non-alcoholic (NA) beer and wine have been a much-neglected category. What was available didn’t resonate with us on branding or taste. Niki and I are both young and love spending time with friends, going out to concerts and being social, and we definitely didn’t want to give that up. So, we pushed ourselves to innovate beyond what was being offered on the market at the time. We sought to create new NA styles that had never been brewed before. Creating a brand that was fun & youthful so we could enjoy our favourite beers with friends without any regrets was key for us from the beginning. We wanted to create a brand that was 100% proud to be NA.
Our mission is to create a world where everyone can feel included regardless of what’s in their cup, a beverage that allows us to stay social and be healthy. As a society, we are slowly starting to talk about alcohol’s true impact on our communities, and why it is embedded so deeply in our culture. By creating great-tasting NA drinks, we are trying to challenge that norm, drink by drink.
TGG: Who makes up the team at Grüvi?
Anika: Grüvi was started with a small team made up of our family and friends, including: myself and Niki as Co-founders (we’re also siblings), our parents, family friend Glenn Broadly and my boyfriend Alex Rau. It has been just over a year since we launched and we have gone on to add three amazing members to our team. We are excited to continue to grow our team in the future.
TGG: It’s very common for people with gut issues to avoid alcohol. Do you ever encounter customers who purchase Grüvi because of their gut issues?
Anika: Definitely! We have encountered many individuals who are seeking alcohol-free options due to gut issues (Crohn’s, IBS, colitis, etc). Overall, there are so many reasons why people choose to enjoy a Grüvi, but a large majority of our customers are looking to reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption for their health. Whether that be recommended by a doctor or a preference on how alcohol makes them feel, Grüvi was created to provide a healthier option to allow people to stay social and healthy. We shouldn’t have to compromise.
TGG: How does alcohol negatively affect the gut?
Anika: There is no doubt that alcohol has an affect on our gut and digestive system. If we break it down, alcohol is a toxin, it is not processed like other nutrients in food. Our digestive system has to work extra hard to try and eliminate it from our body. When we consume high amounts of alcohol we are also making our liver work hard to eliminate the toxins, instead of focusing on the other 500 functions our liver has to do.
When it comes to our gut microbiome, it is crucial to have healthy gut bacteria to help with our digestion. Alcohol can kill the good bacteria in our gut leading to dysbiosis (more bad than good bacteria), in turn causing inflammation. Many of those that suffer from various gut issues already have higher levels of inflammation and alcohol can cause further irritation and lead to more issues.
TGG: Alex, when were you diagnosed with Crohn’s disease?
Alex: I was diagnosed nine years ago when I was 15. I was initially diagnosed with colitis, but a year later after a flare-up, the diagnosis was changed to Crohn’s.
TGG: Do you avoid alcohol for your Crohn’s?
Alex: I didn’t drink alcohol for about a year and a half. During that time I felt more energized and loved waking up hangover-free! The hardest part at that time was that I often felt left out at social events. Especially in the university setting, where alcohol is such a big part of student life. I then decided to reintroduce alcohol and see how it would affect me. Luckily, there was no major flare-up, which is what made it difficult for me as I knew I shouldn’t be drinking much but I wasn’t ready to make the sacrifice of feeling left out at social events.
More recently, I have made some significant lifestyle changes, switching to a gluten-free and dairy-free diet as well as reducing my alcohol intake almost completely. This is in large part due to two reasons: my stomach reacted more to the alcohol when I drank more than one to two drinks, and I finally discovered great tasting options, like Gruvi. By having that option in my life, I finally felt like I didn’t have to choose between my health and my social life anymore. That has made a huge difference for me and I feel great! I am so happy to work for and grow a company that I hope can have this positive impact on others as well.
TGG: Where do you sell Grüvi?
Anika: Gruvi can be found at independent grocery stores in Toronto, such as Fresh City Farms and Unboxed Market. Other retailers, like Cocktail Emporium and the Mercantile also carry Gruvi. Online, you can find Gruvi on Well.ca where we ship across Canada. Recently, we have added many different locations throughout Ontario (London, Ottawa, Foodlands in cottage country).
For American readers, Grüvi ships anywhere in the U.S directly from our website.
TGG: What’s your best selling product?
Anika: Our Prosecco is received very well by our community and is also a great gluten-free option. On the beer side, the IPA flies off the shelves. We’re excited to continue to innovate and create new styles, so stay tuned for some special releases coming soon.