Up until very recently, if you went to a bar or restaurant and scanned the drinks menu, you'd generally find loads of outlandish and expensive alcoholic cocktails, wines, exotic beers - and then..right at the bottom, where nobody is encouraged to look, a smattering of half-baked 'virgin' mock-tails and pointless sugar-laden soft drinks, more appropriate for children's parties and rugby boxes than an establishment that welcomes people who pay with Diner's Club.
The non-alcoholic and low-alcohol options were limited and depressing, but that is changing rapidly in many parts of the world.
These new drinks, and others like them, are the creation of a new wave of entrepreneurs who are seeking to reinvent social occasions and the liquids we use to grease their wheels. “Low-alc” spirits contain no more alcohol (0.5%) than the overripe banana you might mash up for a smoothie. The ambition is to sell a product that is compatible with sobriety, but commands the respect and perpetuates the rituals that we reserve for drinks such as whisky or gin.
Many people are becoming less interested in getting drunk. Increasingly they thirst for a unique experience, and see drink as an enhancer rather than an essential social lubricant. What matters isn’t a liquid’s alcoholic payload but its capacity to elevate a mood or moment. - via
What is interesting about the increasing demand for non-alcoholic drink alternative is that it has created a brand new category of drinks - sophisticated gourmet beverages with complex flavours that do not contain alcohol.
Global lockdowns must in part, have contributed towards the spike in demand and producer innovation in the category.
Looking at this topic from a South African perspective, where getting blind drunk is a right of passage and taking long, slow draws on a triple brandy and Coke, is in many instances, the only way you will be accepted socially by your 'friends' - one wonders how this global trend will play out here.
South Africans have a particularly toxic relationship with alcohol.
Much like wilfully staying in a physically abusive relationships we use alcohol to numb the pain of being ourselves. Far more than just a 'social lubricant' - alcohol serves as the primary mental anaesthetic that we need to kill each other on our roads and inflict the worst acts of violence against our selves and our neighbours.
If the government in South Africa wants to instantly cut the country's mortality rate in half overnight, they simply ban the sale of alcohol. That's how big an impact this substance has on our society.
So in part, the rise in demand for non-alcoholic alternatives tracks the prevailing mindset of the consumers that are demanding it.
There is opportunity in the space for sure, but perhaps more from a niche, gourmet-type aficionado.