Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Rolling Stone editors or publishers.
At this point, you may have seen an advertisement for a non-alcoholic cocktail during the Super Bowl or perhaps a curated list of “mocktails” available at your favorite local restaurant. These “one-off” findings are part of what’s become a global movement taking shape in which many consumers are rethinking their relationship with hard alcohol.
Within the first two weeks of January 2022 alone, NielsenIQ reported that low- and no-alcohol sales generated $106 million, with non-alcohol-specific sales bringing in $13.6 million. Additionally, as originally reported by the IWSR, the category overall has grown from $7.8 billion in 2018 to $10 billion in 2021 across various markets globally, such as the U.S., Canada and Japan. These numbers may seem shocking, but in actuality, they speak to a larger cultural shift taking place in which consumers are drinking less alcoholic beverages in general, for reasons ranging from not going out as often to greater interest in alternative drink offerings.
In terms of offerings, we’re seeing innovation taking shape from the launch of canned non-alcoholic ready to drink (RTD) beverages such as Lyre’s Gin & Tonics to the development of a multi-pack of hard seltzer featuring zero-percent-, 5-percent- and 8-percent-proof offerings via a company called PRIMER, which just hit the market last month. (Full disclosure: Author advises PRIMER.)
From an availability standpoint, traditional online platforms such as Drizly and Instacart now feature low-and-no-alcoholic beverage offerings with a click of a button in various parts of the U.S. Brick-and-mortar bars and retail stores are now also popping up across the country, such as retail shops Boisson and Spirited Away (located in New York City) and Umbrella Dry Drink’s non-alcoholic cocktail pop-up bar offerings (Washington, D.C.).
Personally, after having spent the last 13 years of my professional career in various roles across the wider beverage sector working for some of the most iconic brands in the world, such as Jameson Irish Whiskey, Campari, Patrón Tequila and many others, I too began re-evaluating my own relationship to alcohol come early 2022. Through the help of some educational reading such as This Naked Mind by Annie Grace and a powerful iPhone app entitled Reframe, designed to help you drink less, I have transitioned into a “sober curious” mind frame, which, for me, has equated to drinking less and more mindfully.
Given everything outlined above, do I foresee some form of an impending demise of the wider beverage alcohol industry? Not a chance, but what I do see happening already and expect to continue to see take shape is the evolution of the low- to no-alcohol category. Consumers have more options than ever before when it comes to what they can drink on all occasions throughout the day. This means brands (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) will need to be more strategic than ever before when it comes to effective marketing, sales and media efforts.
My suggestion? Try to hone in on who is truly drinking your product and why. Work to develop advertising, programming and campaigns that meet these ever-evolving consumers where they are now — drink or no drink in hand.