Caleño is a range of distilled non-alcoholic spirits inspired by the sun-drenched spirit of Colombia. Founder Ellie Webb is on a mission to bring joy to ‘not drinking’ by capturing the intense flavours, rhythms and colours of her vibrant motherland.
So, where did this non-alcoholic spirit, Caleño, come from? Here is the story of Ellie Webb and Caleño.
Born in Kent to a Colombian mother, during her childhood Ellie Webb would travel to Colombia for long summer holidays. Ever since she’s been inspired by the positively optimistic and colourful Colombian way of life, which is something that flows through Caleño at every level.
Before starting Caleño, Ellie gained experience working in the drinks industry, which she came to love, and soon she became keen to find her own place within it.
The lightbulb moment came when Ellie was doing Dry Jan and out dancing with friends. She was disappointed by the lack of choice on offer when it came to grown-up non-alcoholic drinks and realised there wasn’t anything accessible, that suited her lifestyle or reflected her sense of adventure when it came to drinks.
Ellie has always had an entrepreneurial streak, even when she was young she would make ‘jugos’, Colombian fruit juices, and sell them to her family, so it felt natural for Ellie to take matters into her own hands and create something that she wanted to see on the shop shelves.
Ellie worked on her idea for a new non-alcoholic spirit for two years before quitting her day job, during which time she explored and experimented with different botanicals in her kitchen and took a trip back to Colombia for more inspiration and research.
Finally in 2018, at age 27, she decided to take the plunge. She left to set up the business and the original Caleño Light & Zesty was born, a delicious new non-alcoholic distilled spirit featuring a lively zesty blend of tropical, citrus and spice botanicals.
The word ‘Caleño’ means ‘of Cali’, the Colombian city where Ellie’s mum is from, a place famous for its salsa dancing, cuisine, and culture. Colourful Colombian towns like Cartagena and Guatape provided inspiration for Caleño’s bottle designs.
Then in 2019 Caleño landed a major national listing in nearly 500 Sainsbury’s stores, which was the major turning point. Suddenly having the support of one of the big supermarkets made people sit up and take notice of the no-and-low alcohol category.
Since then, the brand has gone from strength to strength, posting record online sales for November 2020, and growing 300% YOY in January 2021, in line with the UK’s growing trend for a more balanced approach to enjoying alcohol. Last year also saw the launch of a second flavour, Caleño Dark & Spicy.
“We’re on a mission to create more moments of joy and change people’s perceptions of what it means to not drink,” says Ellie. “Just because you’re not drinking alcohol, doesn’t mean you can’t have a great time and enjoy a delicious drink!