L’Officiel Arabia speaks with Maggie Frerejean-Taittinger and Constance Jablonski, Founders of the French Bloom
L'Officiel Arabia - Credit, Frank Pena
The brainchild of long-time friends Constance Jablonski and Maggie Frerejean-Taittinger, French Bloom was born out of an idea that celebrations shouldn’t come with the possibility of exclusion but should instead elevate social gatherings and make everyone feel included. Launched in the Middle East at the end of 2022, French Bloom has quickly managed to create a new category and position itself as a market leader in the super premium 0.0% alcohol sparkling wine category.
Having first met in New York, Maggie and Constance developed a close friendship as a result of their similar wellness journeys. Constance, a top model living a fast-paced lifestyle, was struggling to balance the industry’s demand for physical perfection alongside a social life which provided her with the relationships and connections important to her mental wellbeing. Maggie, the Michelin Guide’s international development manager, was navigating her pregnancy and finding that there was a lack of pregnant-friendly alternatives to the sparkling wine that she usually paired with exquisite dishes when dining with friends and family. Both women’s experiences left them feeling as if there was no way to maintain the spiritual wellness of connecting with other people, without sacrificing their physical health.
We talked with the trailblazing women to take a deep dive into the world of French Bloom.
Frank Pena: What are the reasons that catapulted the success of non-alcoholic beverages in recent years?
Maggie : Without a doubt, the world is changing. Worldwide, alcohol consumption is declining, with young people leading the way. Each new generation sees a decrease in average alcohol consumption, raising the obvious question of what has changed. The answer is that people’s attitudes toward alcohol and excessive drinking have shifted over time.
This is explained by several factors, the first of which is a new realization that health is the new wealth. The wellness movement (towards exercise, mental health, vegetarianism, and so on), as well as a growing emphasis on holistic approaches that have gained traction over the last decade and in which Gen Z grew up, have led consumers to make healthier, more mindful decisions. Second, the COVID pandemic has accelerated the whole mind shift. It all brought us to the sudden realization that without our health, life can literally come to a halt. Many people, including myself, took advantage of the first lockdowns, when home office work ended and the evening began, to raise a glass or two to the occasion (with alcohol this time). And it got to the point where many of us simply didn’t feel our best and began to consider a more moderate lifestyle.
Lastly, there is also more emphasis on the fact that those who choose not to drink face discrimination in many parts of the world. It is no longer acceptable to not provide non-drinkers with options on par with wine and champagne when attending corporate events, shopping at luxury stores, or dining at gastronomic restaurants.
“Having a social circles is critical to your well-being.”
FP: What led you and Maggie to create French Bloom?
Constance : As a model, I struggled with the social side of my career, working long days, traveling regularly and socializing every night to network and let off some steam with friends. Being in the fashion world means having strong connections with the creatives around you, and making connections as always being associated with sharing a glass of alcohol. For Maggie, a friend of mine for many years, when she was working at the Michelin Guide, she became pregnant with twins. She suddenly felt excluded from social gatherings, not being invited to toast with us, and didn’t know what to pair at her Michelin-starred experiences. We simply weren’t satisfied with the other non-alcoholic sparkling options and set out to create a sparkling wine that was well-balanced and refined, with 0.0% alcohol.
We set out to create a product that would elevate the moment for everyone and let everyone sit at the same table and celebrate the way they want, no matter the occasion. We are opening the circle.
FP: What are the pros and cons of starting and establishing a business/brand with a close friend?
Constance : I think it is important to find a partner who shares the same work ethic. Even though Maggie grew up in America and I grew up in France, we both spent our professional careers between Paris and New York, so we have multi-cultural lenses for everything we do. Communication is key; the fact that Maggie and I know each other so well is wonderful because we can play off each other and pick up on some of the non-verbal cues we both have. We also know each other’s strengths, and that allows us to adapt quickly. We are also very different, which brings diversity of thought and improves the process with different points of view.
Establishing mutual ambitions also tremendously helped us when we started with the brand and has propelled us to create a solid strategic plan for the company. Overall, working closely with a close friend like Maggie impacted both our personal and professional lives positively, and we have more instinctive trust with one another. Find the friend who you are able to communicate with, and when I say ‘really’, it has to be someone you’re not scared of saying something to when things are not going well.
FP: What impact do you want to see in terms of health and wellness with people shifting to non-alcoholic beverages as part of their celebration?
Constance : The biggest impact is allowing people to fullyenjoy their social relationships after and during work. Havinga social circle is critical to your well-being, and one of FrenchBloom’s missions is to redefine the codes of socialization andcelebrations so that you can finally be around the ones youlove without sacrificing your health or compromising on anyoccasion.
FP: With the UAE’s diverse and multicultural environment, what attracted you most to launch French Bloom in the region?
Maggie : The UAE was a natura market for French Bloom as we’ve observed the phenomenal transformation of its hospitality scene over the last decade. Celebrated for its rich history and warm hospitality, I’m regularly inspired by the innovation, diversity and creativity coming from the UAE’s culinary scene and premium events industry.
I couldn’t think of a better fit for French Bloom, and since arriving in January 2023 we’ve been welcomed warmly. We have incredible partners, chefs, hotels and luxury brands who are early adopters of French Bloom and championing our brand in the region, including Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, The Bvlgari Hotel, SLS Dubai, Boca, Dibba Bay, St. Regis and many more.
“Our mission is to redefine the codes of socialization and celebrations so that you can finally be around the ones you love without sacrificing your health or compromising on any occasion.”
FP: French Bloom has arguably created and grown the super-premium category for zero-proof sparkling drinks and taken the market leader position as it is available in more than 20 countries. How do you explain this success in such little time?
Maggie : After years of R&D, we released our first organic alcohol-free sparkling wines in October 2021, and while French Bloom is still in its infancy, demand has brought the product to 21 countries in less than 18 months.
I explain how well French Bloom has been received by two factors. First the product, which has recently been selected ‘The World’s Best’ by the renowned World Sparkling Wines Awards, is of the highest quality. We rely on the centuries of France’s savoir-faire and know how in sparkling wine making, and pair it with innovation to create an organic sparkling wine with 0.0% alcohol, which is well-balanced with an elevated flavor architecture.
In addition, French Bloom was born from the realization that there is a gap in the market for elegant alcohol-free, premium offerings. We set out to creat zero-proof wines that promote sophisticated and inclusive celebration and have been thoughtful from the concept to the taste, to the storytelling and the entire experience around the brand.
Our community around French Bloom is what sets us apart, as our engaged customers around the world are coming together to say it is no longer acceptable to not have zeroproof options at that same level and experience of fine wines and champagnes for those who choose not to drink. It is no longer admissible to not have elegant and festive options for everyone in the room, whether at restaurants, company events, luxury stores, art openings etc. And French Bloom does exactly this. We offer an organic, halal-certified zeroproof French sparkling that everyone can cheer for.
FP: French Bloom is all about elevating and making everyone feel included in every celebration, and as a hostess, what makes a great party or gathering?
Constance : To me, a great party is when people make newacquaintances and have fantastic conversations, and youcan only embrace and achieve these situations when you feelcompletely at ease and comfortable with yourself and theenvironment. Having non-alcoholic options at parties andgatherings allows everyone the choice and gives everyone thefreedom to cheers together and not be judged for their choices.
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