Will 2022 be the year non-alcoholic spirits really take off?

A few years ago, diners had to answer the question "What to drink if youre not drinking?" with either non-alcoholic beer, mocktails, or soft drinks and juices. How times have changed! The past year, other than bad news on the pandemic front, has seen non-alcoholic spirits burst onto the dining scene in many markets.

If youre still thinking sickly sweet mocktails, youre firmly mistaken. Nielsen data shows that the no- and low-alcohol sector has grown an impressive 506% since 2015 and suggesting that the non-alcoholic sector (including soft drinks) will reach $280 million in revenue this year. Annual growth for the category is expected to hit 7.1% by 2025. 

Unlike in past years, alcohol-free gin for your 'GT', an Aperol alternative without the alcohol, or non-alcoholic aperitifs are all now available in a growing number of restaurants and bars.  Also, unlike in the past, the packaging, design, and taste experience of the new breed of non-alcoholic spirits has improved you just need to look at a bottle of, say, Lyres Italian Orange or a can of Rude Mechanicals Vineyard Gin Tonic and youll see that they wont look out of place on a bar shelf or counter.

They dont taste half bad either. Interestingly, much like meat replacement products like the Impossible Burger or Beyond Meat, non-alcoholic spirits target mostly alcohol drinkers rather than teetotallers and, just like plant-based meat products are gaining popularity among meat eaters, no-ABV beverages are now frequently seen as preferred alternative by otherwise alcohol consuming guests. I find this an interesting trend, particularly for markets like the GCC or other traditionally "dry" markets, where licensing rules dictate which outlets are allowed to sell alcoholic beverages and which arent. Dont get me wrong, I really dont think that every restaurant, cafe, or bar has to sell alcohol, but the rise of no-ABV spirits opens up interesting new possibilities.

Think about your favourite dry restaurant and now imagine you can enjoy a fine GT before your dinner or a glass of no-ABV wine, that doesnt taste like sugar syrup. But its not a proper GT, you might say, but heres the thing: The drinking experience of the new no-ABV spirits mirrors the real thing as closely as Beyond Meat mirrors real meat if you have ever tried an Impossible Burger or a Beyond Meat Burger, you know what I mean. For many diners, its about the palate feel rather than the alcohol content.  From a supply perspective, think about the far less protracted import and supply of non-alcoholic beverages compared to alcoholic equivalents and also the lower tax amount no-ABV beverages attract. If you get the chance to try out any of the new non-alcoholic spirits, do, and youll see why Im bullish about this products segment.

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