The opportunity of no-alcohol beverages

23 July, 2020 by Brydie Allen

In recent years, the low and no-alcohol movement has experienced almost ever-increasing popularity, with multiple new products on the market alongside abstinence campaigns like Dry July and Ocsober.

But even though Australia’s alcohol consumption is at an all time low, that doesn’t necessarily mean bad things for the sales of retailers. According to Samantha Manning, Founder of non-alcoholic beverage producer Monday Distillery, it’s actually an opportunity for liquor stores to diversify their offering further, and capitalise on the changing drinking culture. 

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Before founding Monday Distillery, Manning had a history in the non-alcoholic beverage sphere, creating a line of loose leaf teas and most recently the Osun Sparkling range of botanical sparkling waters. When she realised that consumers were often buying the sparkling waters as an alternative to drinking alcohol, she thought there was a place in the market for a convenient, delicious, and non-alcoholic RTD. 

“I had noticed a lot of people were buying [Osun] as an alternative to alcohol and they wanted something that was adult-like, sophisticated and packaged beautifully to take to social occasions when they’re not drinking,” Manning told National Liquor News.

“I’d watched that consumer behaviour for the last three years and then last year launched Monday on the back of Osun Sparkling as an alternative to drinking, but one that mimics your favourite spirit and mixer.”

This area of the non-alcoholic beverage sector is one that continues to grow in popularity in the Australian market recently, for example, with alcohol free spirits like Seedlip and Lyre’s. It shows there is demand for adult beverages without the alcohol, that people can have when they’re pregnant, a designated driver, or simply not feeling like drinking – without missing out on the experience. 

Manning said this doesn’t mean that non-alcoholic spirit beverages will ever replace those they mimic. It’s just about inclusivity and having something for everyone, no matter what reason they choose not to drink on a particular occasion. 

“I don’t heavily market the brand as a sobriety brand and preach not to ever drink, I’m a drinker myself. But I got an insight into what it’s like when you can’t drink, when I was pregnant, and also when you’re going to a social occasion and choose not to drink because you just don’t feel like drinking,” Manning said. 

“For me it was about creating a premix option that was grab and go, so that if you were choosing to be the designated driver, or you were on a health kick, or you were pregnant – you could still have something nice in your hand.”

In terms of where the opportunity lies for liquor retailers to stock no-alcohol products, it helps a store appeal to a wider customer base, creating a one stop shop for shoppers of all kinds to pick up drinks before an occasion. An example Manning used was how when she was pregnant, her partner would still go and buy beers for himself before they went to an event. Having a non-alcoholic option for him to pick up at the same time would be convenient and offer inclusivity for different consumer types within a group.

While campaigns like Dry July may make one believe that the no-alcohol trend would hit peaks of opportunity at certain times of year, Manning actually said sales consistency shows that demand is steady. It’s therefore something to keep in mind year-round, not just for specific events.

“It’s definitely not the end of liquor, it’s just about being able to offer [non-alcoholic products] for a customer because at the moment, there’s nothing there at all. That’s where the opportunity is being created for brands like us to come through,” Manning said.

“You’ve got so many months now where people are kind of marketing non-alc in that space, whereas I actually find that our sales are consistent and it’s kind of showing that there’s people who are wanting just an alternative when they don’t want to drink.

“I still go and buy my bottle of wine on a Friday night to have, but then it’s being able to have that choice to say – ‘you know what? I’m going to that barbecue on Saturday and I don’t feel like drinking so I’m not going to.’ And next week you might drink instead… I just think it’s being able to offer something for that consumer that mightn’t be drinking.”

Hear more from Monday Distillery and a range of other producers as we discuss ‘better for you’ beverages in the August issue of National Liquor News – coming soon!