Grounded: The Beverage Business w/ Ben Lenart of Almighty

A Wellington hospitality stalwart, in 2014 Ben Lenart stepped into what would grow to become Almighty Beverages, crafters of conscious, clean, delicious drinks made by nature for those with a thirst for life. We caught up with Ben to talk about Almighty, staying true to your values and maintaining a creative mindset.

Sam MacKinnon: Ben, thanks for taking the time to catch up!  Talk to us about Almighty - what inspired your start and why beverages?

Ben LenartI’d been in hospitality for a while and in 2014, I started thinking about what’s next. Myself and the other founders of Almighty were aligned on a set of common interests and values, we all love food and love hospo, and we wanted to create a clean beverage that provided drinkers energy and didn’t hurt the environment.

Almighty makes delicious drinks with organic produce. We support Edible Education and are committed to building a future where all schools can teach students through hands on time with soil, sun and plants.

We started with a particular interest in cold-pressed juice. I had seen cold-pressed juice gain traction in California - I thought that would be something New Zealand consumers would love and saw there was a gap in the market here. From idea through to product launch was about 12 months.

As we’ve grown, we also developed flavoured sparkling water, again epitomising the values we hold and providing a delicious alternative to soda or on a night out. We’ve recently launched a caffeinated water range, Almighty Active, a clean energy drink ready for whatever you want to throw at it.

“Almighty Active is made for people who need an energy boost but want a healthy option. Whether you’re about to go for a run, or you’ve got some work to push through, or you’re going to be hitting the dance floor, Almighty Active is for you.” – Almighty

SM: You’re being modest about your hospo background! (Ben founded former Wellington hospitality institution, Milk Crate) How has your background within the industry helped to grow Almighty?

BL: Working in hospitality has been an awesome training ground and certainly super helpful for Almighty! We understand the hospo sales channel really well, and we know intimately the challenges owners face on a daily basis and therefore where we can help support their business.

Hospitality is a great industry for learning about people - helpful for staying customer-centric as a business, building leadership skills and gaining insight into how people think and act.

It’s a really hard industry to scale in, because every venue needs more people, and so when I started thinking how I could drive value on a larger scale and have more of an impact on people, I decided I needed to start a different business that was easier to achieve those goals. But hospo is a really important channel for us and still very much close to my heart.

SM: Yes, I assume being face-to-face with customers is one of the most important aspects of developing product they want to enjoy. The brand’s tagline is ‘thirst for life’ - how did you shape that mantra for the business and how do you see Almighty embodying this?

BL: Thirst for life’ is the internal worldview that Almighty as a brand resonates with - it's an outlook of optimism, of getting out there, for the go-getters. We support the balanced life - staying thirsty but enjoying the journey too.

For our caffeinated range, we’ve tagged it ‘made for any movement’ which aligns with ‘thirst for life’ but emphasises that we’re here to help hydrate and energise for whatever you’re tackling - if that’s a run or rock climbing or cleaning a space out at home or sitting down for a key project you need to smash. Whatever you’re attacking, we’ve got a clean way to keep you energised.

SM: Speaking of thirst and getting things done, what are some of your personal drivers? How do you see your personality reflected in the business?

BL: I want to create quality things and be adding value to society and community; make sure I’m paying it forward and contributing positively.

I mentioned earlier that the founders of Almighty are aligned on common values, and these are the things we want the business to represent - that goes to the look and feel of the brand, ensuring we’re delivering a quality product, being conscious of the materials we’re using and our impact on the environment.

I always want to be doing something well and bringing people with me - I’m so stoked with how Almighty has been able to develop staff, support businesses and have a positive impact on the community around us.
SM: And it is really clear that community is core to Almighty - you have a number of community-driven initiatives you support and have developed. How did Edible Education and the Recreation Club come into the picture?

BL: Edible Education is something we’ve been passionate about from the get-go. The founding team were driven to create a positive community impact and we started thinking about where the greatest overlap was - food and kids and education. So we saw food education as something we wanted to focus on and that was baked in from the start of Almighty.

Almighty makes delicious drinks with organic produce. We support Edible Education and are committed to building a future where all schools can teach students through hands on time with soil, sun and plants.” – Almighty

But as we were looking into developing that, we agreed we might not be the best people to deliver - there are other professionals in this space. So we looked to partner with and support existing organisations with their important work.

Recreation Club was born through Covid where isolation drove a need to connect people-to-people. A few of us around here love running, and we started encouraging others to join us. We built Rec Club on this idea of connecting with people and moving the body which has been amazing to see it grow a life of its own.

SM: That's awesome to hear more about the initiatives, it goes to show that Almighty is a lifestyle and not just a "beverage" company. Changing tack a bit, what are your secrets to keeping a creative mindset?

BL: For me, a big part is maintaining curiosity with a healthy positive mindset. I believe pressure and limitations generate curiosity and creativity. If we had unlimited funds, it wouldn’t force us to think about different ways of tackling problems.

Practically, making an intentional effort to put yourself in different environments - whether that’s travel or visiting an art gallery or something outside of your usual bubble - is so useful to help you think differently and creatively. It helps you make new links in your thought patterns and that’s been really helpful for me numerous times.
SM: Turning to watches, I know you’re considering your first piece - what sort of style has caught your eye?

BL: I love the look and feel of a 1960's Rolex Datejust or Omega Seamaster with a leather strap, something that denotes quality and craftsmanship but has a nice patina. There’s something about the look and feel of those watches that just speaks luxury yet also isn’t flashy. I don’t have a beater at all so I’d be looking for something for special occasions - I know where I’ll be coming when I’m ready for the purchase.

Read More: Why The Rolex Datejust is Perfection

SM: What can we expect from you and Almighty in the near future?

BL: [laughs] There are so many opportunities for us at the moment, the big thing is to stay focused!  We really want to make the New Zealand market hum and keep pushing into Australia, focused on Melbourne or Sydney. But really it's about being clear with our target, going after that and making sure we’re bringing people with us on that journey.
You can find Almighty at drinkalmighty.com and on Instagram @drinkalmighty

Interview by Sam MacKinnon
Edited by Zayyar Win Thein
Photos by Rachel Soh

Previous post