If you’ve ever described yourself as “sober-curious” or committed to a “Dry January,” non-alcoholic spirits may not be new to you; the space has been slowly expanding for years. But for the first-time, due to a combination of high demand from health-conscious consumers and a wave of new, mindfully-crafted products entering the market, 2022 will be the year they are finally easy to find in major retailers as well as on bar and restaurant menus. You know how we’ve finally reached a place where plant-based meat tastes very much like the real thing? That’s what’s happening in the spirit world.
According to Instacart trends expert and Well+Good Wellness Trends Advisor Laurentia Romaniuk, non-alcoholic beverage sales on Instacart are up 37 percent in 2021 compared to the year before. Whole Foods has experienced a surge, too, leading the company to proclaim that “buzz-less spirits” will take over grocery stores in 2022. “We’ve seen a significant uptick in purchases of non-alcoholic or low-alcoholic options across adult beverage categories and continue to see the trend of consumers simply drinking less,” says Mary Guiver, the global senior category merchant of beer and spirits at Whole Foods Market.
Well+Good Wellness Trends advisors and Eat Well Exchange founders Ashley Carter, RD, and Jasmine Westbrooks, RD, both say the shift to drinking less alcohol is something they’ve seen with their own clients. “People don’t want to drink as heavily as they were before,” Carter says, adding this is especially the case as COVID-19 made more people think about how the substances they put into their bodies affects their overall health. As people are increasingly aware of alcohol’s negative effects on the body and mind—consumption can lead to trouble sleeping as well as increased anxiety and depression, issues that were exacerbated for many during the pandemic—more people are reaching for zero-proof cans and bottles.
As people are increasingly aware of alcohol’s negative effects on the body and mind, more people are reaching for zero-proof cans and bottles.
Brooklyn Brewed Sorrel founder Nzinga Knight, who makes hibiscus-based mocktails, adds that she’s seeing interest in her product not just from people who abstain from alcohol completely, but also from folks who want to drink less alcohol and those who just love the taste. “More event planners come to us to fulfill their clientele’s need for a fancy non-alcoholic drink for events such as weddings, corporate parties, or other events,” she says.
Nick Bodkins says he’s seen how thirsty consumers are for non-alcoholic spirits firsthand as the owner of Boisson, which sells alcohol-free drinks at three brick-and-mortar locations in New York City. “We opened the first location in February 2021, and the first couple months gave us all the validation we needed to open two more locations and secure enough funding to build out the infrastructure to support a much larger e-commerce platform,” he says. At first, non-alcoholic-spirits brands had trouble keeping up with demand: “We are constantly dealing with stock issues because companies said they’d send us 10 or 20 cases [of product]. But I told them, ‘We need you to send us 200 cases; that’s how much we’re going through,’” Bodkins says.428%
John Wiseman, the founder of non-alcoholic cocktail brand Curious Elixirs (which launched in 2015, one of the very first), says his brand keeps selling out of products, too. “Sales have grown 428 percent since the pandemic began and are on track to be up 500 percent by the end of 2021,” he says. In 2022, Wiseman says Curious Elixirs will come out with three new products, all with relaxing, adaptogenic herbs. “One of them will definitely scratch the itch for something fancy to celebrate with at any wedding, New Year's Eve, or celebration,” he hints.
What else is on the drink menu for next year? Kara Nielsen, the director of food and drink at trend forecasting firm WGSN, says that botanical, gin-like spirits were the first zero-proof liquors to become popular, with brands like Seedlip (founded in 2014) and Monday (2019) leading the charge. (Both brands confirm they will be releasing new products in 2022, but the details are under wraps for now.) But in 2022, Nielsen and Bodkins say alcohol-removed wine and canned mocktails are primed to be big. “Especially in summer 2022, canned mocktails are going to be huge,” Nielsen says. Guiver says Whole Foods is already anticipating this, stocking products such as Greenbar Distillery’s Bitters & Soda line, which heroes flavorful herbs with a carbonated tea base.
Other brands to look for in this space include Ghia (launched by Glossier alum Mélanie Masarin in 2020), Kin Euphorics (which released adaptogenic canned drinks earlier in 2021), and Mingle Mocktails, which launched in 2017 but expanded distribution to four new states in October of this year and is now available in over 2,000 retailer outlets. Clean Co, a low- and non-alcoholic spirits brand that launched in the U.S. in October 2021 will also be coming out with new products in 2022, though the company is keeping specifics a secret for now.
Nielsen says alcohol-removed wine that’s aged and crafted in much the same way traditional wine is also about to join the latest happy hour lineup. (She says it’s already the norm in Europe, by the way.) Alcohol-removed wines that have launched since the onset of the pandemic include a new line from Freixenet, Le Petit Etoile (released in 2020), and Starla (launched in July 2021). These types of wines will be seen on more restaurant and bar menus in 2022, too. Bodkins says he just recently created a tasting menu with 2021 New York Sommelier Award Miguel de Leon at the restaurant Pinch Chinese in NYC, with hopes to collaborate on more alcohol-free pairings in the next year.
Brandy Rand, the COO for the American division of IWSR Drinks Market Analysis, says hemp-infused spirits are also gaining momentum as people look for a zero-proof way to unwind in the evening. Emily Onkey, co-founder and CMO of Aplós, a non-alcoholic spirit infused with broad-spectrum hemp that launched in 2020, says of her product, “Customers describe feeling ‘floaty,’ relaxed, or mellow”—without the hangover. Some hemp-infused beverage brands are making their role as an alcohol replacement more explicit by using cocktail-inspired names for their products: Jeng, a zero-proof hemp beverage launched earlier this year, calls itself a “hemp-infused beverage for cocktail lovers” and its product line comprises a paloma, Moscow mule, and “Jeng and tonic;” and Recess, known for its CBD-infused seltzers, is coming out with a hemp and adaptogenic “margarita” in January 2022.
Whether you’re looking for a non-alcoholic buzz or a sophisticated upgrade for your “mocktail,” in 2022, we’ll raise our glasses to more variety and easier-to-find options.
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