YES YOU CAN’s TYLER MARTIN on changing our drinking culture, one can at a time
Tyler Martin is an Australian Olympian and the founder of Yes You Can, which is ‘taking the piss out of drinking.’ He talks about the Kiwi ‘aha moment’ that lead to him and his wife founding the zero-alcohol company and the hang-out that made him realise it was a drinking game-changer
For a lot of people, alcohol was something they were self-medicating with a little bit during the lockdowns. Was that part of the reason you launched your company, Yes You Can, to give people alcohol-free options?
The consensus in general is that during the first lockdown, everyone drank a whole heap as a coping mechanism or whatever it might be. And then the second lockdown, people kind of thought, ‘well, I didn’t feel great that first lockdown, I need to do something about it. So, I’m going to drink a little bit less.’ The launching of this product wasn’t a direct result, but definitely played into that general feeling.
As a professional athlete, playing water polo, you must already have pretty good wellness practices in place. How were you looking after yourself over the last couple of years?
I was lucky, coming from a sporting environment everyone knew what the right things to do were eat, sleep, hydration, and mental health awareness. So, I do have a good framework, but at the same time, like everyone, I have peaks and troughs.
In early 2020, I was in a really good fitness routine, I was getting up and doing everything I could with the restrictions, and eating well. Then I went through periods myself where I started eating badly, and wasn’t exercising as much.
The benefit to me was through creating this company, we just drank a whole lot less anyway – and we weren’t massive drinkers in the first place, we were probably more binge drinkers where we would drink to get drunk at various events.
So many Kiwis and Aussies can relate to that idea; it’s a culture thing. So how exactly did you come up with the idea of creating this company?
The ‘aha moment’ actually happened in New Zealand, funnily enough. We’re out at lunch with some friends and Sophie was pregnant at the time, and everyone was getting Aperol spritzes and Soph really wanted one and she had a bit of FOMO.
At that moment, we thought, ‘Hang on a sec, why? Why can’t we? Why can’t she partake in this social experience? You know, why is there nothing out there that was speaking to her or speaking to us?’ And then from my sporting background, there’ve been plenty of times when all my mates were saying, ‘oh, come on, let’s get another one tonight.’ And you know I had a game or a flight or training or whatever it may have been, and needed to almost pretend to be drinking to be part of the boys.
So that was kind of sitting in my subconscious and then that occasion happened with Sophia at lunch, and we thought ‘let’s give this a crack’. I knew nothing about food and tech but I reached out to a friend of mine who was a world class mixologist and worked in some of the top bars all around the world, and said, ‘hey, run me your best, the best cocktail list with the real alcoholic ingredients’. Then we took that to a food technology partner of ours, and I said, ‘Okay, guys make it taste exactly like this, or better, with no alcohol.’ So that was just a very layman’s nutshell version that took, you know, almost a year.
How’s the response been? What stories are you hearing from people?
At first, we were really nervous because we spent all this time working on a brand and developing products and, at the end of the day, you know, the liquid is the thing that people are buying. We put a lot of time and effort and energy into building something that is, at the same time, not preaching sobriety, but also like not, like not cringy. Our slogan is ‘taking the piss out of drinking’; a little bit self-aware and funny.
But when we launched it, everyone said, ‘Oh, the brand is great.’ And they tried the liquid, and I said, ‘Oh my God! it actually tastes quite like I expect a real drink to taste.’ We were really buoyed at the start, because we weren’t nervous, and we got focus groups and all that kind of jazz.
We’ve had people reordering, we’ve been lucky enough to win a whole heap of awards recently at various international spirits competitions that we entered. So, we’re really grateful and thankful that we are getting some good reception out there. I was at a baby shower a few weeks ago and there were more of our Dark and Stormys drunk between my friends than there were Peroni beers, which was quite cool to see.
And then you get a message on Instagram or Facebook or an email saying, ‘I always drunk seven nights, and now I can only, now I drink only two nights in a weekend and I have yours in the week, and I feel that I’m not missing out.’
So you’re here in Australia, you’ve got a beautiful fiancée and a new baby. What are you grateful for this Saturday morning?
So, Soph and I and Teddy are going to go for a little walk, the weather’s more or less holding off. So, just the ability to actually get outside and go for a walk with our little family is something that sometimes, we can take for granted but this weekend, I’m not!