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September, 2023

Meet the Model Who Is Putting the Glamour Into Alcohol-free Drinks

WWD, United-States - Credit, Joelle Diderich

Constance Jablonski and her business partner, Maggie Frerejean-Taittinger, are on top of the growing sobriety trend with their nonalcoholic sparkling wine French Bloom.

Champagne is synonymous with celebration, but guests who don’t drink can often feel left out.

It’s a familiar experience for Constance Jablonski, who moved to New York City at the age of 17 to pursue her modeling career. The daughter of a doctor father and a pharmacist mother, she has always been into wellness and found it hard to keep up with her peers.

“The life of a model is about socializing, going out, going to a lot of events,” she says. “I always thought it was really difficult for me to connect with people because I wasn’t the one spending the long nights until 5 a.m. with everyone else.”

That didn’t prevent the French model from scaling the heights of her profession, appearing in advertising campaigns for brands including Calvin Klein, Estée Lauder and Hermès, and racking up magazine covers. She also holds a health coach diploma from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, though she’s never used it.

But when her close friend Maggie Frerejean-Taittinger was pregnant in 2019, the two of them decided to create a nonalcoholic alternative to bubbly to make sure that everyone can join the party.

Launched in 2021, French Bloom coincided with a growing sobriety movement and is now served in leading venues including the Ritz Paris hotel, Annabel’s club in London and the Beverly Hills Hotel, as well as events like the Coachella music festival.

Frerejean-Taittinger, who hails from Chicago, had noticed a rise in what she calls “moderate pairing” during her time as international development manager for Michelin Food & Travel, which involved scouring the world for new culinary hot spots.

“There’s the wine pairing, there’s the nonalcoholic pairing, but you’re seeing more and more the blending of the two: individuals that want to have one or two glasses of wine during a five-course meal. But what are they drinking in between?” she says.

She enlisted her French husband Rodolphe, founder of Champagne Frerejean Frères, and Carl Héline, former U.S. brand director for Krug Champagne, to help develop the beverage, which is made with a blend of organic wines from France that have undergone a manual de-alcoholization process to achieve a sophisticated flavor, with premium prices to match.

French Bloom Le Blanc and French Bloom Le Rosé, which are vegan certified and contain no sulfites, conservatives or added sugars, retail for $39 and $44, respectively.

“It’s really trying to give you the same elevated experience and flavor architecture and complexity as you would have in a fine sparkling wine, but without alcohol,” says Frerejean-Taittinger. “We felt that people that aren’t drinking alcohol for whatever reason don’t want something that’s less special.”

Despite setting out to satisfy demanding palates, the duo didn’t expect the drink to be a hit in France, one of the world’s top wine-producing countries. They were surprised when a launch teaser on social media led to a three-month exclusive with La Grande Epicerie, the gourmet food hall at LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton-owned Paris department store Le Bon Marché.

“The response was really incredible. We sold over 30,000 bottles over that time. I think what we realized even in those first three months is that our clientele was not going to be the one we thought,” Jablonski recalls.

“We thought it would be more pregnant woman, people that are completely sober, the religious market, and we realized that there were a lot of people exactly like us, men and women that were sober curious, that just wanted to reduce their consumption of alcohol,” adds the model, who is an occasional drinker.

These days, French Bloom is available in 25 countries. The company sells around 15 percent of its total volumes directly to the consumer via its own e-shop, and works with both traditional wine and Champagne distributors, as well as retailers like U.S. chain Boisson, which specializes in nonalcoholic drinks, and upscale California supermarket chain Erewhon.

Jablonski is the “digital marketing mastermind” of the operation, which employs more than 20 people in Paris, Frerejean-Taittinger says. “There’s no question that she’s the most literate when it comes to digital and social and that’s been a tremendous contributor,” she underlines.

The model has leveraged her fashion connections to raise the visibility of the brand. A face of Guerlain’s Abeille Royale skin care range, she recently partnered with the beauty giant on a VIP gift box that contained a handpainted bottle of French Bloom, and she’s working with luxury brands including Van Cleef & Arpels to have the drink served at events and in stores.

However, Jablonski is keen to differentiate French Bloom from the trend for celebrity-backed drinks that has seen everyone from Brad Pitt to Sarah Jessica Parker riding the rosé boom. “I don’t really see French Bloom as a celebrity brand,” she says. “I feel like a lot of people know French Bloom without knowing who is behind it, to be honest.”

Having given birth last year to her first child, Jablonski underlines the importance of backing a product she truly believes in.

“I don’t think I had really planned to be an entrepreneur five years ago. This project just came and it’s more of a passion project than anything else,” she explains. “It’s not like I was planning on creating a brand, like doing creams or hair products. I honestly think if you create a project that is not passionate to you, I don’t think it’s going to work.”

Heading into the holiday season, French Bloom plans to launch new formats, and it’s also working on products aimed at high-end gastronomy. “Still today, I think we have to convince the gastronomic side. They are more reticent,” Jablonski notes.

But with top restaurateurs like Alain Ducasse and Dominique Crenn already on board, Frerejean-Taittinger is bullish about the future. “We hope to bring out and release something new in the New Year that will keep pushing borders,” she says. “We’re convinced in five to 10 years’ time, you’ll be able to drink a Grand Cru wine without alcohol.”

The duo wants to make sure their brand remains a pioneer and leader in its field. “We really want French Bloom to be a classic,” Jablonski says. “I think the product speaks on its own.”