A growing number of consumers have taken a step back from alcohol for a variety of reasons—sobriety, pregnancy, caloric intake, moderation and mental health, among others. Yet, these same individuals want to maintain active social lives by attending festivals and events with their friends. Producers and distributors are taking note on this growing thirst for flavorful and colorful beverages with creative names by providing more nonalcoholic (NA) options, from wine to beer to canned or crafted mocktails.
While NA alternatives remain a small portion of the beverage market, sales are increasing in double (or triple) digits. In the reporting period ending May 14, 2022, U.S. retail sales of nonalcoholic spirits grew 116% to $4.5 million, according to NielsenIQ. In that same period, nonalcoholic beer jumped 21% to $316 million and nonalcoholic wine rose 20% to $50 million.
According to the Bacardi Cocktail Trends Report, released in December 2021, "People are exploring new flexible approaches to sobriety while favoring unique cocktails and spirits when they decide to drink. There's a rise in sober-curious consumers, happy to switch between sober nights and drinking occasions, with 58% globally drinking more nonalcoholic and low-ABV cocktails (NoLo) than a year ago."
Demand for NA beverages follows lifestyle choices (vs. trends) driven primarily by younger Millennial and Gen Z consumers who want to moderate (not necessarily eliminate) their alcohol intake.
"Just because someone doesn't consume alcohol doesn't mean they're bound to water and lemon alone. They should experience all the flavors that tickle their taste buds and dance with delight without the buzz," said Angie Jackson, "The Traveling Elixir Fixer" and Ambassador at Michigan GROWN, Michigan GREAT and long-time Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival participant.
Jackson's 2021 book, Drink the Wild: Recipes from a Kitchen Witch for the Spirited and Sober Soul, blends her 25 years of experience as a mixologist with her interest in and work with foraging ingredients from the wilds of southwest Michigan.
"I have been pushing for at least a decade for bars and restaurants to have nonalcoholic options for those who do not imbibe," she said. "This was a sector that was ignored or grossly underutilized for a long time."
A certain number of NA options have been part of the overall beverage portfolio at the Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival since it was founded 15 years ago.
"We have had some presence from NA producers in the past, from a table here or there in The Vineyard or Beer City Station," said Dawn Baker, Festival Manager. "Last year, we had a few more brought in and featured by Alliance Beverage. This year, we will definitely have a larger participation with a special section of NA products in both those areas with significance representation in Beer City."
Stella Artois—which has sponsored a music stage since the Festival began—will showcase their NA Liberte at the Festival, brought in by Westside Beer Distributing.
"Taste testing conducted in the ShowSpan offices verified that the taste of Liberte is dead on for the traditional Stella," Baker continued.
Tasting Sessions—including one focused on "Mocktails"—will be back for this year's Festival, with five featured opportunities for education and sampling as part of 45-minute sessions. Participation in these sessions will cost 10 tasting tickets for four to six samples.
Over the coming weeks and months, the list of NA products will be updated and posted on either GRWineFestival.com or on the Festival's social media channels.
Courtesy of ShowSpan.
Photos courtesy of ShowSpan.