Taste Radio Episode 239

Athletic Brewing Co.: Bill Shufelt


The opportunity, as Bill Shufelt explained, was hidden in plain sight. 

Shufelt, the co-founder and CEO of non-alcoholic beer maker Athletic Brewing Co., believed that despite decades of stigma and ridicule for sober suds, modern consumers were ready and waiting for a better tasting and premium option. Following months of category research and market analysis, he launched Athletic Brewing Co. in 2017, which has emerged as the leading brand in a rapidly expanding market for non-alcoholic beer. Athletic has dominated the craft side of the category and holds a 54 percent share of the segment, which, according to Bill, is the fastest growing within non-alcoholic beer and grew over 300 percent in 2020. 

In an interview featured in this episode, Shufelt, speaking from the company’s San Diego production facility which opened last year following a $17.5 million capital raise, discussed how a high-pressure career in finance led him to non-alcoholic beer, how he dealt with consistent rejection from beer industry professionals and how he landed his first investors. He also spoke about the yin and yang of his relationship with Athletic’s co-founder, John Walker, why he believes that “drama is so unproductive,” how he planned for and is managing explosive growth and how he evaluates strategic partnerships.

In this Episode

0:42: Interview: Bill Shufelt, Co-Founder & CEO, Athletic Brewing Co. — Shufelt spoke with Taste Radio editor Ray Latif for an expansive interview that began with his initial assessment of the non-alcoholic beer category, how his fast-paced lifestyle as a hedge fund executive introduced him to the category and how his calm, composed demeanor is reflected in the culture of Athletic Brewing Co. He also discussed the impact of health and wellness trends on the non-alcoholic beverage market, his methodology in measuring the potential for non-alcoholic beer, how a chance meeting at a BevNET Live event led to one of his first investors and the key to landing his most valuable distribution and retail partnerships. Later, Shufelt spoke about outgrowing Athletic’s initial production facility, his advice for forecasting demand, including why brand owners should avoid debt, how the brand’s personality has evolved since its launch and how major beer conglomerates have supported the company.

Also Mentioned

Athletic Brewing Co., Stonyfield Farm, Honest Tea, Krave Jerky, Suja, Ballast Point