Big Alcohol Evolves to Accommodate Sobriety

Big Alcohol Evolves to Accommodate Sobriety

Alcohol abstinence remains a popular wellness trend in 2020, with lingo like “Dry January” and “sober curious” well established as household terminology. We looked at the beginnings of this mindful drinking movement early last year and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. The alcohol industry is experiencing declining sales, so more companies are reconsidering what adult beverages can be sans booze. For health conscious consumers, non alcoholic beer and spirits are showing a promising future.

Smaller brands at the forefront of the trend are garnering attention from venture capitalists and big alcohol companies.

The fledgling craft spirit startup Seedlip has steadily grown attention, winning investments from Distill Ventures (funded by Diageo, a leading producer of alcoholic beverages worldwide). The exclusively alcohol-free company offers craft spirit alternatives that are packaged and priced similarly to traditional high end spirits, providing an answer to the question of “what to drink when you’re not drinking” (Ben Branson, Founder of Seedlip).Diageo has also invested in Ritual Zero Proof, a line of non alcoholic spirits made from botanical essences which mimic the taste and smell of alcoholic spirits. Diageo’s portfolio represents big name booze brands like Guiness, Johnnie Walker and Don Julio. The alcoholic beverage company is making a concerted effort to get in on the booze-free trend.

Well established brands are adding non or low-alcohol drinks to their portfolios.

Heineken recently released a non alcoholic alternative to their classic pale lager. Brewed like the traditional beer and then processed to remove the alcohol, it’s said that Heineken 0.0 tastes darn close to the real thing. It also touts fewer carbs and calories, making for an ideal alternative to traditional beer. Lagunitas, one of Heineken’s subsidiaries, makes Hoppy Refresher – an IPA-inspired refreshment, offering a tasting experience similar to beer minus the alcohol.Molson Coors, the brewing giant that produces Coors and Miller High Life, is making a concerted effort to expand their nonalcoholic beverage alternative portfolio. In 2018, the company acquired Clearly Kombucha and in 2019 launched a UK hopped sparkling water brand called Wellraiser in an attempt to diversify their offerings. They also released the alcohol free Coors Edge beer and Miller 64, an extra light beer clocking in at 64 calories and 2.8% ABV.Anheuser Busch (AB INBev) is also introducing some new no- and low-alcohol craft beer options to their portfolio. Amongst them are Breckenridge Brewery’s Resolution, a Blueberry Acai Golden Ale (marketed for easing back into life after holiday indulgence), and Goose Island’s So-Lo – both boasting less than 100 calories and ABV under 3.5%.

Boozy kombuchas are a major player on the scene as well.

Kombucha is an established wellness space darling, and the industry only continues to grow. While your typical kombucha carries a very small amount of alcohol due to the fermentation process, varieties that pack a little more of a punch are coming onto the scene. An alcoholic beverage that offers antioxidants and probiotics is more appealing to health minded consumers than your traditional cocktail or beer. Wild Tonic, Kombrewcha, and Kyla Kombucha are just a few brands that specialize in this beverage, and other companies are catching on. Sierra Nevada released their own version of hard kombucha called Strainge Beast.

Consumers are looking for a different kind of buzz.

Alcohol is also being pushed to the side in favor of cannabis beverages. While not aligned with the true spirit of sobriety, it’s an alternative nonetheless. Alcohol free wine substitute House of Saka is a luxury beverage for those who opt out of alcohol, but opt into THC and CBD. There’s a cannabis infused answer to the seltzer craze too – Durango based Oh Hi Beverages. Not to mention the bevy of non-psychoactive CBD infused drinks available nationwide, (like the CBD sparkling water made by Dram Apothecary, who recently partnered with Coors Distributing Co), but those don’t seem to represent the same drinking occasion as other alcohol alternatives do.

Brands we’ve got our eye on currently:

Hairless Dog – a 0.0% ABV craft brew that promises all of the taste of a great beer, and all of the benefits that come with omitting alcohol.Athletic Brewing – the first US brewery to exclusively produce non-alcoholic craft beer, marketed toward beer lovers with active lifestyles.Curious Elixirs – pre-mixed and alcohol free adaptations of classic cocktails like the Aperol Spritz and Negroni, with low sugar content and adaptogens for mood enhancement. For Dry January, Sober September, and beyond, health conscious consumers are looking to change their relationships with alcohol; and it’s leading big companies to adapt. The alternative booze drink space is booming. We’re sure to continue seeing more companies, new and established, jumping on board.

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