How a group of women are creating a booze brand based on social change

Corporate social responsibility is something most big companies are looking to push to give their brands more meaning. Mumbrella spoke to the women distilling the idea into their new products.

“Our passion for our causes is matched only by our passion for the product,” explains Sparkke’s marketing boss Sarah Barrable-Tishauer.

“We are not trying to be a marketing ploy that just wants people to buy it to feel good or feel like they’re helping.”

Sparkke Change Beverage Co is a booze brand with a difference. Firstly, it’s founded and run by a group of women. Secondly, it’s got corporate social responsibility baked into the very heart of the product.

Originally founded by Kari Allen and Australian winemaker Rose Kentish, the brewery was launched via crowd-funding website Pozible, aiming to use beer, cider and wine to encourage social change and conversation. It is currently informing consumers on gender equality, sexual consent, asylum seekers and a change of date for Australia day out of respect for Indigenous Australians.

As part of the initiative, Sparkke will donate 10% of its funds to an organisation devoted to the given cause and has plans to hit bottle shop shelves in 2017 should they meet their target.

Barrable-Tishauer, says the brewery’s birth came from noticing a gap in a male-dominated beer industry that didn’t reflect their values.

“We were looking out at the landscape of the beer industry where four out of five beers in Australia are produced by a single company, and one in three globally are produced by a single company,” she says.

“If you follow your way up to the boards of directors on those companies, they tend to be male dominated and lacking diversity.

“We really felt they weren’t necessarily reflective of our values and our generation is really interested in where our dollars go and understanding that our dollars have power.”

“It got us thinking about how we could disrupt an industry that was male dominated and where women are generally involved in, or reflected as promo girls, or as the cute girl in the ad in the skimpy clothes that serves men their beer.

“Women should be reflected for their contributions rather than being accessories to it. From there we decided to jump into it and reflect our own truths and our own values and use beers as positive vehicle for social change,” she said.

The brewery is about putting women at the centre of the industry says Sarah Barrable-Tishauer.

“For each of our messages we thought what better place to start a conversation than over a social drink,” Barrable-Tishauer says.

“Especially with issues like sexual consent for instance, where its often disrespected when alcohol is involved.”

The cider, beer and wine is made in South Australia by head brewer Agi Gajic who is one of only three female Australian head brewers under 30.

While the products will remain the same, the messages on the cans are expected to change following the Pozible launch based on what the public believes are the most important social change conversations to be had.

“It’s possible the messages you see on Pozible will only be available on Pozible and we will be changing those messages with every production cycle.”

Sparkke Change Brewery Co

Consumers who buy the product become a member of the brewery, and will have input on design and social causes.

“It’s in the spirit of what we’re doing, trying to be inclusive and bringing people in. A lot of corporate models especially in the beer industry tend to be more exclusionary where certain voices are heard louder than others,” says Barrable-Tishauer.

“We really want to be a brand that people feel they can have a piece of and be integral to its development.”

However, Barrable-Tishauer said the end goal is to see real social change, not just have a conversation.

“We don’t want people to just talk about it, we want people to follow Fremantle’s footsteps and change the date of Australia Day. Others are more about sparking conversation but we think that conversation is what leads to real change,” she said.

“It’s about infiltrating those spaces where change-makers are, where the power lies and getting them to start acknowledging what things are happening and how we can make change.”

Barrable-Tishauer says brand transparency would be a key driver of the brewery’s success.

She explains: “I think the difference is that there are many corporate models where they are just donating their funds to be able to get people to feel good about their product.

“We are not interested in being perceived as change-makers or perceived to be having a social conscience. We are all young social activists at our core. We aim to be as transparent as possible.

“That’s part of why we decided to do crowd-funding because we wanted people to be able to see the fabric of how our business was being built.”

While the business is currently independent, Barrable-Tishauer said Sparkke has been approached by larger investors, however, the brewery will not accept money unless the investor aligns with their values.

“We want to be conscious of not just taking money onboard that is going to change what our integral values are,” she said.

Sparkke Change

“We are all young social activists at our core,” Barrable-Tishauer said.

“We are also approached by people that do share those values. Our over-arching mission statement is changing the corporate code for good; showing businesses that profit doesn’t have to come at the expense of the environment or human rights. You can create models that help both.”

While the business is currently led by nine women, Barrable-Tishauer said men are invited to be a part of the business.

“I think of all equality equations as having two house plants where one is healthy and the other needs a little bit more water. But to give one a little bit more water you’re not taking the water from the other plant you are just trying to help that one plant bring itself to the same level of health,” she says.

“It’s not about taking opportunities away, the opportunities just aren’t there.

“Agi is one of three female head brewers under the age of 30 in all of Australia and that shows in terms of diversity that we need to give women like Agi the opportunity run a brewery and show she can produce just as well if not better,” she adds.

“It’s not about being man-haters or against men it’s about providing opportunity to women to have a piece of a $4.3b a year industry.”

While the company has big plans Barrable-Tishauer confirms the company needs to meet its $500,000 goal by December 18 to be able to get all their products up concurrently.


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