College-crafted alcohol-free beer earns Retail Council of Canada award

MADD Virgin Lager in can

MADD Virgin Drinks Craft Brewed Lager continues to garner national accolades.

The product which was launched a year ago after being created by a student researcher at Niagara College earned a special award in the beverages category of the Retail Council of Canada’s annual Grand Prix awards.

A total of 34 awards for innovative food and drink products were presented in Toronto on June 3 as part of the STORE 2015 conference.

“The incredible success of our MADD Virgin Craft Brewed Lager is very gratifying for everyone on the team and we simply could not have done it without our partners at Research and Innovation” said Brian Bolshin president and CEO of MADD Virgin Drinks. “They have worked with us from the start and bring a level of commitment and expertise to their work that is second to none.”

The alcohol-free beer was created by Rebecca Griffin who at the time was a student in the Culinary Innovation and Food Technology program and a research assistant with the Canadian Food and Wine Institute Innovation Centre as part of a research project involving faculty students and the industry partner MADD Virgin Drinks. Team members also included lead faculty researcher Amy Proulx coordinator of the Culinary Innovation and Food Technology program and NC Brewmaster Jon Downing.

Today Griffin is continuing her innovative work as a senior research associate with the CFWI Innovation Centre.

“Being able to see a product that I created go from bench scale to commercialization was such a thrill” said Griffin. “Now that I’ve had the excitement of seeing the product on store shelves and having seen the success it has had I’m happy to help other recent grads and students work on projects and hope to see them achieve the same success.“

Launched a year ago MADD Virgin Craft Brewed Lager now enjoys distribution across North America through such outlets as Walgreens in the United States and Shoppers Drug Mart and Rexall pharmacies in Canada. Within months of its launch in 2014 the product had won gold in the newly introduced Non-Alcoholic Beer category of the U.S. Open Beer Championships.

“Our research team was uniquely positioned to develop this recipe as we collaborated with experts and students from our Culinary Innovation and Food Technology program as well as our on-campus Teaching Brewery and our Canadian Food and Wine Institute” says Marc Nantel associate vice-president Research and Innovation at Niagara College. “And now the award-winning results of this collaboration continue to speak for themselves.”

The MADD Virgin Drinks lager project was made possible by funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s College and Community Innovation Program. Lab work for the project was conducted at the CFWI Innovation Centre at the College’s Niagara-on-the-Lake campus which was supported by the Canada Foundation for Innovation and Ontario Research Fund.

The Retail Council of Canada’s Grand Prix Awards are now in their 22nd year. The program is open to manufacturers and distributors of all sizes in Canada. This year’s awards recognize products introduced during 2014.

Finalists were chosen by a 30-person jury comprised of food industry professionals including people working in grocery consumer packaged goods journalists and dietitians. To become a finalist a product must score at least 70 percent in judging.

For the full list of Grand Prix Awards recipients view announcement from Canadian Grocer.

Media inquiries please contact:


Brian Bolshin

President and CEO

MADD Virgin Drinks

Office:  647-343-2171

Cell:  416-727-7432


Michael Wales

Senior Communications Officer

Office: 905.735.2211 ext. 7773

Cell: 905.328.4101


Julie Greco

Communications Specialist

Office: 905.735.2211 ext. 7368

Cell: 905.328.2532