Innovations in the Non-Alcoholic Beverage Category

By: Aaron Skelton, CHFA President & CEO

We know the holidays drive alcohol sales and that demand typically lessens once “Dry January” rolls around. But “Dry January” – a much needed alcohol-free break after a season of indulging (or overindulging) has moved beyond the month after the holidays – consumers are now looking for innovative alcohol-free beverages, all year round.

Walking the aisles of grocery stores and independent retailers, we’re continuing to see a lot more shelf space allocated to products that meet consumer demand for zero-proof bevies. And the data is there to prove it. NielsenIQ reported non-alcoholic (NA) sales totalled $331 million (up +33.2%) in the last year in North America. And when you look into who’s purchasing this, 78% are consumers still buying alcohol, showing the motivation behind the trend is likely health.

This new movement leaves a significant opportunity for brands to create non-alcoholic products with a health lens. At our most recent CHFA NOW tradeshow in Vancouver this past April, the non-alcoholic category dominated the tradeshow floor with brands creating products ranging from beers to spirits with a natural, organic and wellness nod. Here are three notable brands making a mark in the NA category to consider adding to your shelves – before and during the holiday season.

Beer – Libra Non-Alcoholic Beer 

Sober-curious beer drinkers finally have an entire market catered to them with various options from IPAs to lagers. Upstreet Craft Brewing’s line of non-alcoholic beers named Libra just took home a trio of medals at the 2022 edition of the New York International Beer Competition. It was also named Canadian Non-Alcoholic Brewery of the Year. This win is no easy feat – over 700 beers from 15 countries entered the competition, and this acknowledgement on a world stage will surely bring in more brand fans. Besides the bragging rights of winning, consumers are flocking to the brand for its b-corp status and their commitment to mental health and wellness. Libra’s also recently partnered with Serena Ryder to help spread the word. Serena works to support emerging artists to navigate and thrive in the music industry, and she has been alcohol-free for three years. The growing popularity of celebrities also going alcohol-free is fueling this movement. What’s more? The beers are only 30 calories.

Spirits – Sobrii 0-Spirits 

Companies are taking their non-alcoholic beverages and bringing them up a notch – adding herbs, plants and other compounds to support cognition and health. Sobrii 0-Gin is made with natural ingredients and has zero calories. But in addition to the botanical distillates and extracts you’d find in traditional gin (juniper berries, coriander, allspice and star anise), Sobrii also includes ginseng, an ingredient not often included in gin recipes. Sobrii says “ginseng is associated with a range of positive health effects, helping to enhance Sobrii’s better-for-you-benefits.” Ginseng is one of the world’s most popular herbal remedies and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This brand perfectly combines natural and functional ingredients with a non-alcoholic product, catered to the sober curious who are health-focused and still want to enjoy a cocktail without the dreaded hangovers and toxins.

It’s worth noting their blog offers delicious-looking holiday recipes, including St. Nick’s Shandy and Sober Clover. Having these on hand would be an exciting add-on for consumers looking to integrate non-alcoholic beverages into their holiday season.

Wine – Gruvi 

While some may be able to give up beer or cocktails during the holidays, it seems like giving up wine is a whole other feat. That’s where Gruvi comes into play. Their award-winning, alcohol-free dry red blend is full-bodied, fruity, and bold. And will pair perfectly with turkey dinners, weeknight steaks, and all the holiday chocolate. And indulging is guilt-free with just 45 calories per can.

Gruvi’s Bubbly-Rose and Dry-Secco also offer the perfect toasting companion. Their website suggests mixing it with muddled figs, honey, and a squeeze of lemon if you feel fancy.

Their all about putting your health first – and refrain from terming this movement the “anti-alcohol movement” but rather a pro-health movement. Gruvi encourages consumers to align their drinking habits with long-term wellness goals, offers non-alcoholic alternatives to socialize, and allows you to skip the hangover. 

Aaron Skelton

Wondering where best to stock these products? If your store is permitted to sell alcoholic beer and wine, that’s the place to showcase these booze-free bevies. Otherwise, Toronto’s McEwan Fine Foods has found success (a 10% increase in sales) by displaying non-alcoholic beverages in the same aisle as chips and snacks.

It’s exciting to see this category growing – for the health and wellness of Canadians and an incredible opportunity for innovation. We’re expecting to discover even more of these innovative brands at CHFA NOW Toronto in September at Exhibition Place – if you haven’t registered yet, you don’t want to miss our first live show back in Toronto. We urge you to walk the show floor and see what sparks your interest. We know it’s already peaked ours!

Aaron Skelton is the President and Chief Executive Officer at the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA).

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