Melbourne’s UpFlow Brewing Co makes $330k in months with beer idea

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Julian Sanders was looking for a way to have a cheeky beer at work but one that wouldn’t impact his performance.

The mechanical engineer has designed 47 craft breweries around Australia but became inspired to solve the problem of enjoying beer culture without the brutal hangover.

“The idea for UpFlow came about as we wanted to be able to drink at work and everyone in the brewery industry needs to be able to drink, because the development of beers is actually a very serious job and tasting of beers is a very serious part of craft brewer’s work,” he told

“It’s fun in the first few years but not necessarily as fun after a decade. So the idea started as self defence for me to be able drink at work and I ended up with a booming business.

“Drinking at work sounds flippant but we go very hard and we are high performance entrepreneurs and very hard charging business operators, so we need to be 110 per cent all the time and can’t do that with alcohol in the week.”

The 42-year-old landed on the idea of non-alcoholic beers and launched his business UpFlow Brewing Co last year.

RELATED: Aussie makes $1.5m with ‘cheeky’ treat

But he also wanted to address consumer complaints about other zero alcohol products tasting like water and the lack of flavour choice or range.

“In the past, zero alcohol beers were a brand extension by alcohol companies to mop up the minority sector and those poor cousins weren’t very exciting,” he explained.

“Now UpFlow only brews zero alcohol beer so all of our work, passion, energy and skill is devoted to a beer that is actually exciting.”

UpFlow currently has a range of four beers, including two sports drinks. It includes a craft style beer full of flavour, a hoppy IPA, a stout that’s roasty for winter and a rich pale ale, Mr Sanders said, and can be purchased online and from bottle shops.

The beers cost around $80 for a slab and $25 for a six-pack in Dan Murphy’s when they hit there in July.

The rehydration sports beers were developed with Monash University and include minerals, carbohydrates and water, providing low energy hydration and aim to replace lost electrolytes and nutrients to support recovery, according to the company.

RELATED: $2 million company started in just four days

Bringing in the big beer bucks

Since launching in July last year, UpFlow has raked in over $330,000 in sales revenue within their first eight months of business.

This year, they also expect to beat their first year target of half a million dollars turnover.

“The rapid growth is a combination of people making healthy lifestyle choices and the growth in covid of online shopping, which is a perfect storm for zero alcohol beer,“ he said.

Mr Sanders added that beer culture is really close to “Australia’s beating heart” but there has been a trend towards people cutting down or avoiding alcohol.

According to an Australian Institute of Health and Welfare survey, the number of people who had ditched the drink rose from 1.5 million to 1.9 million between 2016 and 2019.

It’s a movement that is prominent among young people too. The National Drug Strategy Household Survey found 21 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds and 24 per cent of 25- to 29-year-olds don’t drink in 2019, and both those figures have more than doubled since 2001.

There are two groups in particular that enjoy UpFlow’s beer, according to Mr Sanders.

“One is 25-year-olds, who want to party and they want to have fun and be included but they don’t want the downsides of alcohol in their life, and the second is 40 to 60-year-old men who are moderating drinking and for them UpFlow is a fantastic sometimes beer,” he said.

For Mr Sanders, becoming a dad to two girls was a major reason he wanted to cut down on the boozing.

“The biggest change for me personally was having children and wanting to be in the moment at 5am to experience the best part of my life ever,” he said. “When I realised I needed a zero alcohol beer I then found myself not drinking on Fridays and Saturdays, so I would be mindfully present on weekends.”

He added that zero alcohol beer is the holy grail of brewing science.

“It took us two years of development trials to work out the best process and the best recipes to achieve the best flavour result and we did that by taking a completely clean sheet of paper to the development of beers and process to brew them,” he said.

“It resulted in a unique full flavour and in a blind tasting of 25 beers we won first and second place, so we are chuffed to see some positive feedback from a lot of hard work.”

Aussie company’s winning innovation grants

UpFlow was one of five winners of the Amazon Launchpad Innovation Grants initiative, which provides more than $200,000 each worth of help to trailblazing entrepreneurs and start-ups across Australia.

Mr Sanders said this opportunity will help UpFlow go global, although they are already stocked in the UK, and have an unusual target for the business.

“The biggest opportunity for beer globally is the developing world. They want modern lifestyle products but don’t have alcohol backgrounds and that’s our long-term target,” he revealed.

The other winners of the Amazon prize included Victoria’s Prisca Ongonga-Daehn who launched her idea for waterless toiletries in November last year with her business Baresop, starting off with a powdered hand wash formula.

South Australian business Goldilocks Suit was also awarded for its next generation baby monitor built into a singlet allowing parents to keep track of their baby’s wellbeing via an app.

There were two more Victorian company’s recognised with engineer Alex Sinickas’ new take on traditional breast pumps with her business Milkdrop and James Dutton’s natural, bamboo fibre dressing alternative to regular wound care offerings created after his son suffered an allergic reaction to a standard product.

The winners will be given a $20,000 cash grant, advertising support, an exclusive boot camp experience with access to Amazon experts, a national advertising package with JCDecaux Nurture, industry mentorship and onsite marketing placements.

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