Bolle drinks are made with Zero Gradi™ technology, keeping all the flavour in – and the alcohol out
“While trying to abstain from alcohol with my wife we found ourselves quite dissatisfied with the incumbent offerings in the marketplace,” Roberto Vanin, founder of Bolle, tells me. “This is when I made the decision to combine traditional wine-making processes with new technology to develop a better proposition that allowed us happy to drink something that not only tastes amazing but is shorn of alcohol and needless calories.” Roberto was born in a small town in the northeast of Italy and grew up with his three siblings.
Living around rural landscapes, Roberto was always curious about the wonders of nature. He went on to study chemistry at university for his undergraduate degree and master’s. Roberto always had a longing to explore the depths of the world, soon picking up the travel bug and deciding to leave his home town. He moved on to work across Italy, the US, the Netherlands, the UK, UAE and Turkey, where he led research and development teams in the consumer goods industry.
Roberto led the team that developed Vanish, the market-leading stain removal product, and also worked with leading brands including Mars, Yildiz Holdings and Suntory Beverage and Food Europe. “I love innovation in all its guises, especially the interaction with end consumers where we seek to identify and unpick their distinct needs and develop the science that makes their product aspirations a reality,” Roberto explained. “It makes me so proud when I can positively influence consumers.” With his expertise in consumer goods, Roberto knew he wanted to create his very own product.
Roberto and his wife were attempting to abstain from drink but soon missed cracking open a bottle of wine in the evenings. The couple decided to scour supermarket aisles for an alcohol-free alternative – but were left disappointed with the offerings. They found the products were ‘too sweet’ and not flavourful enough. That was when Roberto decided to take matters into his own hands, creating his own alcohol-free wine that doesn’t sacrifice taste. And Bolle was born. Roberto created a makeshift laboratory at home and began making Bolle drinks. The tech-savvy entrepreneur then gave samples to his family and friends to try.
After receiving outstanding reviews for his homemade concoctions, Roberto decided to launch it full-scale and set up a manufacturing facility in Birmingham, England. “I started making Bolle at my place. Initially, I created a lab and a pilot plant as my priority was to see if I could create something that satisfied family and friends,” Roberto explained. “Then interest snowballed so much that I had to expand my capability which resulted in me scaling up the manufacturing capability in England.” He added: “I believe that more and more adult consumers are looking to significantly reduce alcohol intake in tandem with growing numbers of Millennials and Gen Z who do not wish to drink alcohol at all,” Roberto said. “Consumers need access to ‘real’ choices and I believe Bolle is perfectly placed to be part of a can be part of their future drinks’ repertoire.”
Low or non-alcoholic drinks in the market are first made with alcohol which is then de-alcoholised, which inevitably suppresses the flavour of the product. Bolle uses Zero Gradi™ technology, a revolutionary process where ‘magic yeast’ consumes sugars in the juice – keeping all the flavour in, and the alcohol out. “Existing products are very sweet and flat as they are made by de-alcoholization, a physical process that removes alcohol from the liquid, but in a heavy-handed manner that negatively impacts both flavour and taste,” Roberto said. “I looked at the problem from a fresh perspective by deciding not to create the alcohol in the first place. I worked with a leading biotech company to develop a proprietary solution using “magic yeasts” that ferment the sugar in the juices without producing alcohol. We have created a game-changing technology: Zero Gradi™.”
Roberto struck gold in his first investment round. He reached out to an investor he worked with in the past who was thrilled to be a part of Bolle’s journey – which goes to show how your network is truly your net worth. “I was very fortunate because when I reached out to my investor with whom I have worked in the past in Turkey, he responded with a resounding yes because he wanted to be part of Bolle’s journey,” Roberto explained. “He mentioned to me that I should stop looking for any other investor as he would provide all the necessary resources, both financial and human, so I could focus solely on the development and launch of Bolle. I have also invested a significant amount of my own resources but I would not be where I am without my investor’s goodwill.” Bolle has launched two flavours of sparkling wines: Bolle Oro (with pear notes) and Bolle Rosa (with rose notes).
Bolle has achieved immense success since its launch. The brand became a finalist at the Great British Food Awards 2022 and was nominated for The World Beverage Awards, with major listings planned across the UK this year. The brand has also piqued interest across the globe, with orders placed as far as North America, Mainland Europe, The Middle East and Australasia. “What gives me immense joy is when people try and enjoy drinking Bolle to the extent that they do not miss traditional wine at all,” Roberto tells me. “I hope Bolle can be part of more and more people’s lives moving forward.” In a few words of advice to SMEs, Roberto said: “We will all face difficult times in the future, but we need to retain open minds when it comes to embracing new technologies and challenging fixed mindsets. In difficult times there are always great opportunities.”