For a long time non-drinkers have suffered from a lack of choice when they are dining out or find themselves in other social situations. Would they like water, soda or juice? The limited array of options can make non-drinkers feel like they are back in grade school and outside the circle of fun that bars, restaurants and concert venues can provide.
That’s all set to radically change with a new crop of soft beverage makers who are coming at the issue of non-alcoholic drinks from with a wide variety of options in mind. You could say that this is a reflection of a much larger trend that is rocking the entire food and beverage industry. The health and wellness category, popular for years with affluent consumers, is finding a footing within consumables, while meanwhile millennials and Gen Z consumers are drinking less, and looking for high quality ingredients in what they imbibe.
So make some space next to your stockpile of LaCroix for the renaissance of no- or low-alcohol beverages that are made to savor.
Modern day temperance movement?
“Dry January” a viral social media phenomenon where people pledge to give up booze for the month of January. For those who do not have a chemical dependency to alcohol, giving up drinking can represent a prioritization of health or mental clarity. The problem arises when these teetotalers are out in public. Bartenders can find it challenging to concoct a booze-free libation that’s not overly sweet and pink (think Shirley Temple).
Companies like Curious Elixirs have entered the market to serve that gap. The company’s website says: “Curious Elixirs are booze-free craft cocktails for everyone. Handcrafted in the Hudson River Valley, we use only the best ingredients and nothing artificial. Our cocktails combine ONLY organic juices, spices, herbs, roots, barks, and botanicals.”
Som is a drinking vinegar line pioneered by acclaimed Thai chef Andy Ricker, and recently rebranded and repackaged to look more at home in bars and other upscale venues. While it can be used to make mixed drinks, it also has a sophisticated flavor profile that makes it a great alternative to alcoholic beverages.
Cannabis enters the market
For those who do want a mood-altering way to unwind, the rapid legalization of marijuana is presenting a whole new set of opportunities for beverage makers. Recess is one company taking on major urban markets in a big way. This beverage contains CBD, and touts a calming effect on the drinker that will still allow them to work, socialize and play with a clear mind. We know that some major food and beverage companies are already looking intensely at this market, so expect the range of products to increase in the coming years.
Adaptogens are hot
Expect to hear the word “adaptogen” bandied about in this new millennial-focused market. What is an adaptogen you might be wondering? They are naturally-occurring substances, often touted as “superfoods,” that are supposed to help your body adapt to stress. Combined with CBD in products like Recess, and you have a recipe for a smooth but not overly mind-altering beverage that comes in office-to-club friendly flavors like blackberry chai, peach ginger, and pomegranate citrus. Mushrooms, as well, seem to be having a moment, as fungi-derived products like mudwtr are consumed by yoga-enjoying well-heeled women who also subscribe to the “Whole 30” or Paleo-inspired lifestyle.
Expect to see big alcohol invest
Low or no alcohol beer used to be a bit of laughingstock in the U.S. but a new crop of low alcohol brews are attaining popularity in Europe and given the trends that are affecting the market, perhaps the United States too may even see a vogue for craft brews that are low-alcohol. Craft brewers in the U.S., long fond of boosting the alcohol percentage in boozy double or even triple IPAs are now expanding their rosters of so-called “session” beers (so called because you can drink many of them in one “session” without getting drunk). Conglomerate AB InBev has pledge to boost its worldwide volume of sales to low or no alcohol brew. Some of that volume may come from CBD infused beverages.
Looking into the future
Expect big growth in this market. Analysts expect bottled low- and no-alcohol beverages in the U.S. to grow at triple the rate of the past five years. As these trends continue to shape up, we expect to see talented executives needed at all levels of this innovative space, especially drawing from beer, wines and spirits.