Non-alcoholic “spirits” are capturing news headlines, articles, and many LinkedIn posts. The phrases “dry January”, “sober curious”, “no/low alc”, and “#dampjanuary” appear throughout the internet (at least if you spend time reading about spirits).
I’ve thought about three things this morning:
- Size of the Market: the global non-alcoholic spirits market in 2021 was $281.1 million according to research from Allied Market Research. The global spirits market in 2021 was $783.5 billion according to GlobalData. That quick math equates to .035% of the total spirits market is non-alcoholic spirits. If you say that your average bottle costs about the same, then for every 35 bottles of non-alcoholic spirits sold, you have 100,000 bottles of alcoholic spirits sold.
- Demographics of Consumers: it seems to me that the target marketing focus of non-alcoholic spirits brands are health-conscious consumers. In addition to those, you have people who don’t drink for other reasons (pregnancy, religious sobriety, recovering alcoholics, etc.). While I don’t doubt that a life without alcohol can provide certain health benefits, many health trends are highly cyclical with few folks sticking to any one trend for life.
- The Effect of Alcohol: after explaining to a friend of mine that I don’t drink for the effect of alcohol, he confronted my hypocrisy with a blunt question – “why wouldn’t you drink non-alcoholic drinks then?”. In reality, we enjoy the taste of alcohol (of course), but we also enjoy the effect of alcohol on our bodies. When consumed with temperance, spirits relax our bodies and slow the mind to focus on the present moment. The tongue flows easily and enhances social situations.
A similar situation would be the prevalence of decaf coffee. While most cafes and restaurants now carry decaf coffee, it is seen only as an option to be kept on hand to please customers who want to enjoy the cafe experience without the effects of caffeine.
As non-alcoholic spirits increase in quality and reputation, we will see more and more bars carrying a few bottles on the shelf. I definitely welcome it as a great option to be inclusive of those who choose not to drink but desire to be included in the social nature of the bar. However, I doubt its zenith will rival the ratio or regular-to-decaf coffee as a portion of the market. Barring a societal change, I see this as temporary, growing trend. But then again, I could be way off.
Happy to hear from anyone on this trend though! If you think it should be on the agenda at our spirits conference this year, let me know… (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Note: Seedlip and tonic is still a great substitute when my wife is pregnant, and Athletic Brewing is fantastic in any situation in which I want the beer taste sans booze.