When life gives you Crohn's, sell premium beer

Ted holding a beer

It's not quite like the old saying 'when life gives you lemons, make lemonade,' but when you've compromised on some of the things you love because of Crohn's or colitis, finding and launching your own business centred on great tasting (near) beer, can definitely have its benefits.

"I loved great tasting beer – and the social aspects of being out with friends, or playing sports, and then enjoying a beer or two on the patio," says Ted. With his diagnosis of Crohn's disease in 2005, Ted found that alcohol was one of his triggers.

"Crohn's disease has a different playbook for each person," Ted explains. "Most people experiment to find out what they can digest well, and what triggers a flare-up (of the condition). For me, alcohol was an issue."

After trying the bland no alcohol / low alcohol beers available in supermarkets, Ted went back and forth a few times with regular beer products, experiencing a couple of flares in the process, as he found what worked (or didn't) for him. Eventually he made the full commitment to non-alcohol near beers. His decision was fuelled by a discovery of the great products coming out of Europe and the opportunity to start his own business.

"I had two young children," Ted explains. He has two girls aged 4 and 2 years old. "And work had become harder to manage. In addition to the physical challenges I was facing, I was often experiencing self doubt at work, wondering how other people saw me in light of having Crohn's. Did they think I was pulling my weight? Did they understand what the disease was like? Such thoughts can impact your confidence – a lot."

So Ted found himself, a little over a year ago, launching his own business importing quality near beer from craft breweries throughout Europe. "It was a sudden thing – but it's worked very well," Ted says. "We're continuing to grow and expand, and people are responding very positively to the taste and experience.

"Plus, the experience of owning and operating my own business has given me the flexibility I need to deal with my health," Ted adds. "If I need to, I can take today to deal with my Crohn's – as my own boss, there's tomorrow to put together the marketing plan."

Ted's markets for near beer and now no/low alcohol wines are bigger than you might think. "There are people like me who cut it out because of a health condition," Ted says. "Then there are people who drink alcohol, but don't want to drink it on certain occasions such as when they are working, driving, boating or any activity where it is either illegal or people want to be more alert."

For these people, who love the taste of beer and wine, compromise is not acceptable. "Even pregnant women who love beer or wine are delighted to find that they can enjoy a glass or two of a favourite beverage without the risks or problems associated with it.

"But it has to taste great!" Ted says.

Ted's imports include lagers, wheat beers, dark brews, wines, and cider. His newest acquisition is a line 14 types of non-alcoholic spirits including whisky, vodka, tequila, rum and more. And unlike North America, where near beer is disdained in supermarkets and beer stores alike with just a fraction of a single market share, European non-alcohol products take up a substantial part of the beer market – up to 13% in Spain, for instance.

Ted's company PremiumNearBeer.com is the first business of its kind in Canada, though such companies have been successful in Europe for many years. PremiumNearBeer.com is involved in the RIDE program in Ontario this year, offering a coupon off a case of beer or wine and encouraging no drinking while driving.

While the business is based out of Toronto, this Sault-Ste-Marie native can ship anywhere in Canada. Through November, which is Crohn's & Colitis Awareness Month, Ted donated $4 to Crohn's and Colitis Canada from every case of beer sold.

Visit Ted's website to find out more about the great tasting products he offers – it may be just the thing to help with your holiday cheer this year, or find a tasty solution to a health challenge brought on by Crohn's or colitis.

  • Canada has among the highest incidence rates of Crohn's and colitis in the world.
  • 1 in 140 Canadians lives with Crohn’s or colitis.
  • Families new to Canada are developing these diseases for the first time.
  • Incidence of Crohn’s in Canadian kids under 10 has doubled since 1995.
  • People are most commonly diagnosed before age 30.

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