Newcastle entrepreneur’s Thirsty Gal canned cocktails scoops drinks industry win

Adam Hardie

Adam Hardie

Business Development Partner and Head of Food & Drink

A Newcastle entrepreneur who launched a low-calorie canned cocktail business after losing her job during lockdown has won a £50,000 UK accelerator programme.

Siobhan Linney, 30, of Gosforth, set up Thirsty Gal after the pandemic led to her losing her self-employed waitressing jobs, and she realised there was a gap in the market for a low-calorie cocktail alternative. Ms Linney researched online how to make her own range, then enlisted a company to create the 90-calorie concoction. Since then, Thirsty Gal cans have proved popular with nightclubs and festivals.

The drinks have now won the top prize in the Brew Accelerator programme, designed to support the growth of start-up drink brands, beating competition from North West based craft beer firm Spookton Brew Co and Edinburgh-based non-alcoholic spirit Talonmore. The prize includes a year of mentoring and guidance, valued at £50,000.

She said: “I really can’t believe it – I’m absolutely delighted. When I lost my job in 2021 after hospitality venues had to close, I noticed there was a gap in the low-calorie cocktail market. Ready to drink cocktails were really popular with people my age while bars were closed because of the pandemic, but most are really high in calories and sugar.

Pictured above, Alex Nicholson (Partner and Head of Newcastle office), Siobhan Linney, and Adam Hardie (Partner and Head of Food & Drink)

"I had no industry experience but was passionate about cocktails. I did a lot of research, found a company that could produce my cocktails with a much lower calorie count, and I’m really proud of all the progress I’ve made. I’m over the moon to have won this, and now the dream is to expand the business and run it as my full-time job.”

Ms Linney, who works part-time as an event waitress while she builds her brand, sells the drink in three flavours – Lychee Martini, Passion Fruit Martini, and Pina Colada, which she is launching this summer.

She received her first stock in July 2022 and it sold out within an hour at Newcastle’s LooseFest Festival. She now sells Thirsty Gal to regional nightclubs and venues and has been booked for another six festivals later this year.

As she looks to grow sales across the UK she will focus on off-trade, e-commerce, and outdoor drinking markets.

She added: “The guidance from the judges will be so important in helping me take the business to the next level. I just want to keep building the brand and growing brand awareness in the coming months.”

Adam Hardie, Head of Food & Drink at Johnston Carmichael and a judge of the Brew Accelerator, said: “Siobhan was a more than deserving winner. I think her brand has real potential and the data proves that the ready to drink cocktail market is showing phenomenal growth. It’s a great tasting product and we think we can make a real difference to Siobhan’s brand by helping with strategy, as well as accounting and financial matters.”

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