Sansorium brings more non-alcoholic beverages to B.C., forecasts seven figures in revenue

Gen Z is not driving the alcohol-free movement, says Sansorium CEO Fiona Hepher

The non-alcoholic beverage market is booming around the world, and hospitality providers across Canada are adding zero-proof options to their menus. But while it might be easy to spot local brands at stores, establishments and events, B.C. and Canada have arrived late to the party, according to Sansorium CEO Fiona Hepher. 

Vancouver-based Sansorium is an online marketplace for non-alcoholic beverages specializing in wine. Its platform also offers beer, spirits, tonics and the like, with the option for retailers and hospitality players—including bars, restaurants and hotels—to buy in bulk from its wholesale distribution arm. 

The impetus for a company like this was Hepher’s personal sober-curious experience: when she and her mom Kathryn Hepher stopped drinking alcohol in 2020, they had a tough time finding alternatives to alcohol. “When we went out to restaurants, they just offered sparkling water, and when we went to the liquor store, all they had was a dusty bottle in the back of the store—maybe, if they had anything,” says the younger Hepher. “We felt so left out and so underserved.” 

Sansorium CEO Fiona Hepher
Sansorium CEO Fiona Hepher

Digging deeper, they noticed a gap: the U.K. and Australia seemed to have budding brands with great numbers, but consumers struggled to find the same in Canada. At the same time, demand was (and is) rising here: “We’ve seen probably 10 to 12 years of trend-setting towards things that are more health-conscious,” says Hepher. “We’ve reinvigorated how we eat, move, sleep, meditate, supplement, mushrooms, whatever. There was this tipping point when I noticed, we’re doing all these things for our health and then at end of the day we’re trashing our bodies with alcohol. Somewhere we’re going to have to figure this part out.” 

Last year, Health Canada updated its 2011 alcohol guidelines to indicate that no amount of alcohol is safe—even two glasses per week puts you at risk of cancer and other diseases. “That’s a huge thing,” says Hepher. “And now we often hear people say, When those guidelines came out, I decided to shift the way I look at alcohol.” 

Sansorium's top Sparking Wine
Sansorium’s top sparking wine

When the Hephers launched Sansorium in 2021, they wanted to showcase a portfolio of grape varietals and offer something for every occasion. They couldn’t find any Canadian wineries producing non-alcoholic wines back then so they turned to the U.S., France and Australia to learn more about which de-alcoholizing technologies make the best-tasting product. Now the Sansorium platform features products from all over the world, including Edenvale, a traditional winery in Australia that uses “the best technology to date and is investing in future technology, too,” according to the younger Hepher. “It was just miles different from what was here already in Canada.” 

The business caters to North America, but B.C. is its biggest market across the board, and Ontario second. So far Sansorium has invested in community education by hosting several ticketed tasting events in Toronto, Squamish and Vancouver. These events always sell out, with around 50 to 70 people showing up at each, says Hepher, with many of the attendees noting they have been disappointed by alcohol-free beverages in the past, but are still willing to give it another shot. 

Fiona Hepher speaking at a Sansorium tasting event in Vancouver
Fiona Hepher speaking at a Sansorium tasting event in Vancouver

The company is forecasting seven figures in revenue for 2024 and also working on expansion into the U.S. “From a demographic perspective, millennials (and older) are a big driver of the non-alcoholic space,” Hepher adds. “You’ll often see headlines that say, ‘Gen Z is driving the movement.’ Not from a financial perspective—their wallets aren’t bigger so they’re still not spending on a $30 bottle of wine, alcohol or not. They’re not giving it up, they just didn’t start and they don’t have too much interest towards it. 

“Boomers, they’re saying, ‘I can’t handle it anymore,’ and millennials are saying the same thing. So this is really our demographic—men and women, but predominantly women. [At Sansorium], we have an average spend of anywhere between $100 and $150 online. So they’re willing to put down the money, and that shows me their commitment to this movement.”