If you’ve ever described yourself as “sober-curious” or committed to a “Dry January,” non-alcoholic spirits may not be new to you; the space has been slowly expanding for years. But for the first-time, due to a combination of high demand from health-conscious consumers and a wave of new, mindfully-crafted products entering the market, 2022 will be the year they are finally easy to find in major retailers as well as on bar and restaurant menus. You know how we’ve finally reached a place where plant-based meat tastes very much like the real thing? That’s what’s happening in the spirit world.
According to Instacart trends expert and Well+Good Wellness Trends Advisor Laurentia Romaniuk, non-alcoholic beverage sales on Instacart are up 37 percent in 2021 compared to the year before. Whole Foods has experienced a surge, too, leading the company to proclaim that “buzz-less spirits” will take over grocery stores in 2022. “We’ve seen a significant uptick in purchases of non-alcoholic or low-alcoholic options across adult beverage categories and continue to see the trend of consumers simply drinking less,” says Mary Guiver, the global senior category merchant of beer and spirits at Whole Foods Market.
Well+Good Wellness Trends advisors and Eat Well Exchange founders Ashley Carter, RD, and Jasmine Westbrooks, RD, both say the shift to drinking less alcohol is something they’ve seen with their own clients. “People don’t want to drink as heavily as they were before,” Carter says, adding this is especially the case as COVID-19 made more people think about how the substances they put into their bodies affects their overall health. As people are increasingly aware of alcohol’s negative effects on the body and mind—consumption can lead to trouble sleeping as well as increased anxiety and depression, issues that were exacerbated for many during the pandemic—more people are reaching for zero-proof cans and bottles.
As people are increasingly aware of alcohol’s negative effects on the body and mind, more people are reaching for zero-proof cans and bottles.
Brooklyn Brewed Sorrel founder Nzinga Knight, who makes hibiscus-based mocktails, adds that she’s seeing interest in her product not just from people who abstain from alcohol completely, but also from folks who want to drink less alcohol and those who just love the taste. “More event planners come to us to fulfill their clientele’s need for a fancy non-alcoholic drink for events such as weddings, corporate parties, or other events,” she says.
Nick Bodkins says he’s seen how thirsty consumers are for non-alcoholic spirits firsthand as the owner of Boisson, which sells alcohol-free drinks at three brick-and-mortar locations in New York City. “We opened the first location in February 2021, and the first couple months gave us all the validation we needed to open two more locations and secure enough funding to build out the infrastructure to support a much larger e-commerce platform,” he says. At first, non-alcoholic-spirits brands had trouble keeping up with demand: “We are constantly dealing with stock issues because companies said they’d send us 10 or 20 cases [of product]. But I told them, ‘We need you to send us 200 cases; that’s how much we’re going through,’” Bodkins says.
John Wiseman, the founder of non-alcoholic cocktail brand Curious Elixirs(which launched in 2015, one of the very first), says his brand keeps selling out of products, too. “Sales have grown 428 percent since the pandemic began and are on track to be up 500 percent by the end of 2021,” he says. In 2022, Wiseman says Curious Elixirs will come out with three new products, all with relaxing, adaptogenic herbs. “One of them will definitely scratch the itch for something fancy to celebrate with at any wedding, New Year's Eve, or celebration,” he hints.
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