May 2, 2022
BevZero Leadership Industry Insights: Debbie Novograd
BevZero’s CEO, Debbie Novograd, offers insights into the advances and trends in the dealcoholization space, GoLo dealcoholization technology, and why it is important that a non-alcoholic product should start as an alcoholic beverage.
Debbie Novograd is no stranger to the world of food and beverage. Prior to stepping into the role of CEO at BevZero Novograd held several positions, including Director of International Marketing, for Starbucks, guiding them through the formative years of the company’s international expansion. She followed this with a position at Aramark, working in a role of operational management and business development. The net sum of these years across the food and beverage spectrum has given Novograd a unique perspective on how beverages play a role in our daily lives.
“I’ve had a great opportunity to connect the dots between identifying beverages specifically as a need state, but also as a true point of comfort for a lot of people,” notes Novograd. “Not only in socializing, but also in how we connect with other people and how we connect with ourselves, and what it means to us from a ritualistic perspective.”
Now, with two and a half years as CEO of BevZero, Novograd reflects on the changes she’s seen in the dealcoholization sector and how changing trends have dictated new methods of using the Spinning Cone Column and GoLo technology.
“BevZero (formerly Conetech) was founded about 30 years ago, and, really for the first 20 or so years, it was used to a large degree by large wine producers for lowering alcohol into the sub-14% category for the purpose of reducing excise taxes in the U.S.,” Novograd explains.
Changes in demand for low- and non-alcoholic beer and wine, the introduction of cannabis-infused beverages to the market, and the passage of the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act in 2017 have all contributed to a shifting scope of how dealcoholization technology is being used in the US and globally by brewers and winemakers.
“BevZero has taken dealcoholization technology that was mostly being used as a tool in the winemaker tool belt, to really stepping to the forefront of innovating and helping our clients grow in their visions. We enable entrepreneurs, wine manufacturers, and brewers to venture into new spaces.”
So, as the trends have shifted, and consumers are increasingly seeking out low-alc and no-alc beverages, why is it important that a non-alcoholic product start out as an alcoholic beverage?
“I don’t think people recognize how much of a role fermentation can play in a non-alcoholic beer or wine— everything from aromas and flavors, to mouthfeel and balance,” explains Novograd. “To start with a juice or a simple formulation, you miss the sophistication that is delivered via the fermentation process. And by removing the alcohol, you don’t remove those qualities per se. It is necessary to adjust for the lack of alcohol in terms of structure and balance, but a lot of the elements of fermentation are still included in the finished product. So there’s a lot of things that happen in the fermentation process that are solely missed if you don’t start with a fermented product.”
So what is the next step in the evolution of low and no alcoholic beverages? Novograd hopes to see the gap between high-quality non-alcoholic beverages and their alcoholic counterparts shrink.
“There’s the true adage of ‘garbage in and garbage out’ in the process— people used to think that to make a dealcoholized product for market, you could just use poor quality wine and just take the alcohol out,” explains Novograd. “The reality is that when you remove alcohol from a wine, you concentrate any flaws the wine might have. So if you start with a wine that’s highly flawed, you’re gonna concentrate all of those flaws. If you start with a wine that has very minimal flaws, you’re going enhance the positives.”
Novograd sees GoLo Technology as a way to enable and encourage winemakers and brewers who are focused on high-quality products to dealcoholize with confidence in the outcome.
“GoLo takes the dealcoholization process to the next level by allowing winemakers and brewers to preserve desired attributes without losing the quality of aromatics,” explains Novograd. “The more control we can give our clients in the outcome of the dealcoholization process, the closer we can bring them to realizing their hopes for their final product.”