Beyond Booze: Non-Alcoholic Beverages Take the Spotlight as Sober October Spurs Year-Round Surge in Sales

Beyond Booze: Non-Alcoholic Beverages Take the Spotlight as Sober October Spurs Year-Round Surge in Sales

Beyond the Buzz: Non-Alcoholic Beverages Thrive Beyond Sober October

As Sober October draws to a close, the party for non-alcoholic beverages is just getting started. It's not just a seasonal trend – the allure of booze-free options is becoming a year-round affair. With the holiday season approaching, mocktails and non-alcoholic alternatives are set to grace drink menus, and the promise of Dry January lingers on the horizon.

According to data firm NIQ, the demand for non-alcoholic beers, wines, spirits, and cocktails has transcended occasional fads, marking a robust year-round trend. Sales have surged by an impressive 32% this year, as per NIQ's comprehensive tracking of U.S. supermarket, drug store, and mass merchandise store sales over the 52-week period ending Oct. 7, compared to the previous year.

Kaleigh Theriault, NIQ's associate director of beverage alcohol thought leadership, notes the resonance of booze-less options during holidays, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, and even the Fourth of July. "It's giving us an indication that the consumer is looking for moderation in their drinking," Theriault told USA TODAY.

Despite the meteoric rise, non-alcoholic sales, totaling around $524.3 million over the past 52 weeks, still represent a fraction of the colossal $67.6 billion alcoholic beverage sales. However, the trajectory is undeniably upward, with non-alcoholic sales consistently climbing over the last five years.

Interestingly, NIQ's Non-Alcohol Report reveals a fascinating trend – 94% of those purchasing non-alcoholic products continue to buy traditional beer, wine, spirits, and other alcohol-infused products. Consumers are seamlessly incorporating these alternatives into their drinking repertoire, signaling a shift in preferences toward moderation and diversity.

As Halloween approaches with its share of tricks and treats, it's noteworthy that non-alcoholic beer, in particular, is carving its niche. Accounting for 2% of all beer sold in grocery stores, the frothy alternative is making a significant mark in a market traditionally dominated by its boozy counterparts. As the non-alcoholic wave continues to ripple through the beverage industry, it appears that the thirst for moderation is here to stay, challenging the hegemony of traditional alcoholic choices.

Crafting Taste, Breaking Stigmas: The Non-Alcoholic Beer Renaissance

The resurgence of non-alcoholic (NA) beer isn't merely a passing fad; it's a thriving movement that continues to gain momentum, signaling a shift in consumer preferences and lifestyle choices. According to Dave Williams, vice president of analytics for Bump Williams Consulting, the interest in NA beer remains vibrant, with existing players expanding, new entrants joining the scene, and consumers seamlessly integrating NA occasions into their lives.

Bump Williams Consulting, based in Shelton, Connecticut, specializes in servicing the alcoholic beverage industry, relying on NIQ data to track retail sales at supermarkets, convenience stores, and select liquor outlets. While the share of non-alcoholic beer sales might seem modest in the grand scheme, it plays a pivotal role in driving incremental growth within the beer market.

Surreal Brewing Co., founded by Donna Hockey and Tammer Zein-El-Abedein in Northern California in 2018, stands as a testament to the evolving landscape of non-alcoholic options. In the early days, those opting for non-alcoholic beers often had to compromise on taste and variety. Donna Hockey notes, "We found that people wanted adult-tasting, non-alcoholic beverages for a long time. However, there wasn't a variety of craft non-alcoholic options available, and there was a stigma associated with these beverages that made it hard to enjoy them socially."

In response, Surreal Brewing Co. has pioneered a diverse non-alcoholic beer lineup, featuring a West Coast IPA, hazy IPA, milkshake IPA, red IPA, Kolsch, and pastry porter. Beyond taste, they've addressed health concerns by offering options like the Chandelier Red IPA, boasting zero sugar, Keto-friendly attributes (5.6 grams of carbs), and reduced gluten.

The impact is not only seen in consumer preferences but also in the business realm. Distributors and retailers are attuned to the growing trend, expanding their non-alcoholic beer selections in response to customer demand. Surreal Brewing Co. exemplifies this trend, experiencing rapid growth and emerging as one of the fastest-growing non-alcoholic beer brands on Drizly compared to a year ago.

Drizly, the Uber-owned alcohol delivery program, reports a significant uptick in non-alcoholic beer, wine, and spirits sales, recording a remarkable 54% increase in the first half of 2023 compared to the previous year. Sober October has seen a particularly impressive surge, with sales rising by 73% so far compared to a year ago, emphasizing consumers' commitment to healthier choices.

Donna Hockey captures the essence of this evolving landscape, stating, "However, people still love to enjoy a beer regardless of whether it has alcohol." This sentiment is echoed in NIQ's Non-Alcoholic Report, revealing that while baby boomers contribute nearly 40% to non-alcoholic beer, wine, and spirits purchases, Generation X and millennials collectively account for nearly 60%. The narrative is clear – the non-alcoholic renaissance is here to stay, crafting a flavorful and inclusive experience that transcends traditional boundaries.

Shifting Spirits: Generation Z Sparks a Wave of Change in Beverage Choices

While Generation Z might not dominate non-alcoholic purchases, they're making waves that ripple through the beverage landscape. According to NIQ, 6% of all beer, wine, and spirits acquired by Gen Z falls under the non-alcoholic category, showcasing a notable overindex compared to other generations. It seems that as Gen Z individuals, aged 21 and older, are not embracing alcohol at the same rate as their predecessors, they do exhibit a significant affinity for non-alcoholic alternatives, marking a unique generational shift.

Kaleigh Theriault from NIQ emphasizes this trend, noting that Gen Z's drinking habits differ from those of previous generations when they came of age. A Gallup study reinforces this observation, revealing that the percentage of young adults, aged 18 to 34, who admit to "ever having occasion to use alcoholic beverages" has declined from 72% to 62% over the past two decades. In contrast, adults aged 55 and older are increasingly turning to alcohol, rising from 49% to 59%, while the age group of 35 to 54 remains stable at 69%.

Reasons for this shift are multifaceted. Gallup's findings suggest that young adults, in particular, perceive moderate drinking as detrimental to health. Concurrently, the rise in marijuana usage among this demographic may also contribute to the decline in alcohol consumption. The landscape is evolving, and preferences are diversifying.

Enter the growing realm of non-alcoholic offerings that cater to this changing dynamic. Brands like De Soi, founded by pop star Katy Perry and award-winning distiller Morgan McLachlan, are seizing the opportunity. CEO Scout Brisson notes the trend of customers transitioning from Dry January and never looking back. De Soi's sparkling non-alcoholic aperitifs, including the recently launched Très Rosé, have found favor among Drizly customers.

"We have customers who started with Dry January and never stopped," Brisson explains. De Soi's aficionados maintain subscriptions for bottles, using them as distinctive housewarming gifts or opting for a 4-pack of cans for social gatherings, ensuring a non-alcoholic option that's far more enticing than a traditional sparkling water with lime.

As Generation Z continues to shape the beverage landscape, their preferences and choices are not only challenging traditional norms but also driving the surge in innovative, non-alcoholic alternatives. The evolving narrative suggests that what's in the glass is changing, reflecting a broader shift in societal attitudes toward health, well-being, and the pursuit of more diverse and engaging drinking experiences.

A Toast to Change — Generation Z Redefines Beverage Culture

In the ever-evolving landscape of beverage preferences, Generation Z emerges as a catalyst for change, reshaping the narrative around alcohol consumption. While not commanding the largest share in non-alcoholic purchases, Gen Z's discerning taste buds are steering the beverage industry in a new direction, with 6% of their beer, wine, and spirits choices falling into the non-alcoholic category—an unmistakable overindex compared to other generations.

The data speaks to a broader shift in drinking habits among young adults. Gallup's findings underscore a decline in the percentage of those aged 18 to 34 opting for alcoholic beverages over the past two decades. As moderation and health consciousness gain traction, Gen Z stands out for not adhering to the drinking patterns of previous generations when they came of age.

Non-alcoholic brands, like De Soi, champion this transformation. Co-founded by pop sensation Katy Perry and award-winning distiller Morgan McLachlan, De Soi's sparkling aperitifs capture the spirit of change. The success story extends to Drizly, where De Soi has become a favorite among customers. CEO Scout Brisson notes a trend of customers transitioning from Dry January and adopting non-alcoholic options as a permanent choice.

This shift in preference is not just about abstaining from alcohol but embracing a more diverse and interesting array of non-alcoholic offerings. Whether it's for a housewarming gift or a party companion, consumers are seeking alternatives that go beyond the conventional sparkling water with lime.

In essence, Generation Z is redefining not just what's in the glass but also the entire culture surrounding beverages. As the industry responds to this demand for variety, innovation, and health-conscious options, it becomes clear that the future of drinking is undergoing a profound transformation—one where non-alcoholic choices are not just a trend but a lasting evolution in the way we toast, celebrate, and savor our beverages. Cheers to the changing tastes of a new generation!


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