Low-alcohol and alcohol-free drinks are taking over the shelves in supermarkets.
Growing in popularity, these alternatives to regular alcoholic beverages allow non-drinkers to still enjoy the flavours of beer, wine, and spirits without the alterations and side effects of alcohol.
With the growing interest in low or non-alcoholic drinks, many alcohol companies are releasing their own brands of virgin drinks in response to this, in hopes of winning over the new era of the drinks industry.
So, when did the mindful drinking movement start, and how did it become so popular among young adults? There are many advantages and health benefits of consuming booze-free beverages, and the best non-alcoholic drinks taste just as good as the regular ones (sometimes even better)!
So let's look at the history, trends and the future of the alcohol free industry.
The low and no alcohol industry, historically.
The majority of alcohol-free drinks were produced and consumed during the American Temperance Movement in 1918. The demand for these sorts of beverages exploded because alcoholic drinks were prohibited during wartime. This meant that any drinks with an alcohol percentage above 0.5% couldn’t be sold, so brewers had to get creative and make less appealing versions of beer.
Then, the National Prohibition Act in 1920 banned the consumption of alcohol altogether. For the longest time, alcohol-free drinks meant sugar bombs inside a glass, until the mocktail era came to an uprising in the 1930s, becoming popular among adults. These mixed drinks usually contained ginger ale, maraschino cherries, lemon juice, orange juice and grenadine.
The low and no alcohol industry, today.
In the past ten years, there’s been an increased demand for non-alcoholic options for beer, wine, and cocktails. Research done by the International Wine and Spirits Record (IWSR), published in 2021, predicts a sales growth of over 31% for low and no-alcohol drinks by 2024. Its global market reached $10 billion US dollars in 2021, occupying a 3.5% market share in the drink business industry. In the UK alone, its consumption grew 17% in the same year!
The social trends
The demand for non-alcoholic beverage options rapidly grew during the pandemic and 2020 was a turning point for the popularity of alcohol-free alternatives to regular alcoholic beverages. After side effects from drinking alcohol became more prevalent during quarantine, many people decided to drink alcohol in moderation.
Along with the pandemic, living in a digital world today has given people easier access to scientific data. Along with the current health trend, people have become more cautious about their diets and what they put into their bodies.
Young adults like millennials are the ones who worry the most about their physical health, being the generation that has contributed the most to the growth of the non-alcoholic drink business.
The most popular non-alcoholic drink is…
Today, the alcoholic beverage with the most popular booze-free alternative is beer! Many famous companies are now producing versions of non-alcoholic beer, like Heineken, Stella Artois, and of course, UNLTD Beer.
Advantages and benefits of low and no-alcohol beverages
There are many reasons why a person might turn to a non-alcoholic spirit, opt for alcohol-free options like apple cider vinegar, or choose to abstain completely.
Some advantages of consuming low or non-alcoholic beverages include:
- The social factor: Going out for drinks can be a great way to bond with friends, but for non-drinkers or those who want to drink in moderation, it can be difficult to find places that cater to them with non-alcoholic options. Luckily, with the recent rise in alcohol-free bars and drinks, it's becoming easier to find social spaces that don't revolve around alcohol.
- The health benefits: Alcohol is also proven to have many negative impacts on the body, from weakening the immune system to disrupting sleep and increasing the chances of cancer, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Lowering your alcohol intake can have a big impact on your health and well-being.
- The taste: Many people also dislike the taste of alcohol. With the world slowly adapting to more health-conscious individuals, bartenders are now following suit and crafting the best non-alcoholic drinks and mocktails. These drinks can be just as delicious and refreshing as their boozy counterparts. Alcohol-free wines are also usually sweeter since you can detect more notes from the fruit, which may be perfect for some peoples’ taste buds.
- No hangovers: No alcohol beer, also known as 'no hangover beer,' reduces anxiety and stress, hydrating the body and making the transition easier for those who want to quit alcohol. Today, you can find non-alcoholic beer, from Lagers to IPAs at UNTLD Beer, which tastes just the same as regular beer. Did we mention that they're also vegan, gluten-free, high in vitamins and low in carbs?
- Being able to drive home after a night out without having to monitor consumption levels.
These are just some of the advantages of drinking low and no-alcohol beverages although it’s clear that these drinks have opened up a window of opportunity, not only for non-drinkers, but also for the industry itself.
Insights for the future
Today, the alcohol-free drinks business concentrates most of its operations in the US and Western Europe. However, many alcohol companies are starting to realise the opportunities in the Middle East, where alcohol consumption is controlled and, in many countries, prohibited overall.
But entering the Middle Eastern market means changing sales and marketing strategies, which can be challenging for many companies. Since alcoholic beverages are barely present in these countries, the competition shifts to hot and soft drinks instead, which already have an established popularity and market share in the Middle East.
And as the non-alcoholic beverage market expands, companies that only sell alcoholic drink products are facing increasing pressure. However, although the consumption of booze-free alternatives is growing, it doesn’t mean the end of regular alcohol. Alcoholic drinks will most likely never go out of style since they have such a rich historical background that’s embedded in many cultures worldwide.
Both the alcoholic and low/no alcohol categories are expanding in the drink business, and there’s no reason they shouldn't be able to co-exist. For those who want to drink a little less, indulging in both versions of beer, wine, and cocktails can be great. For those who wish to quit alcohol, the possibilities are now endless.