Alcohol free is around to stay. What are your thoughts on rethinking your drinking?
Before I opened the store, someone suggested I carry alcohol-free wines and spirits. I remember asking “Who’s drinking that stuff?”
Like most people who haven’t taken the plunge into the alcohol-free world, I didn’t understand the products, or the customer base. At the time I had a passion for cocktails that was driving me to open the store, and I didn't think that the two worlds could exist together.
In my first week of business, I had three customers ask for alcohol free spirits, and on the advice of one of them, I brought in Canadian made Sobrii 0 Gin and Tequila. They immediately became best sellers and I began to better understand this new and expanding world.
The AF (alcohol free) beverage market is growing rapidly both here in Canada, and around the world. A recent article from Drinks International says that sales in this category grew by 6% in 2021 with sales topping over $10 billion world-wide. It's a huge market that is still seeing significant growth in Canada.
Just like I did, you may be asking, “Who’s drinking that stuff?” You may be surprised.
Most studies find that people who drink AF products haven’t stopped drinking alcohol entirely. Instead, they are moderating their drinking by substituting AF occasionally, or for fixed time periods like ‘Dry January’ or ‘Dry October.’
Surprisingly, Generation Z, who’s oldest cohort was 26 in 2023, are part of the largest segment of AF drinkers. As a more health-conscious generation, they don’t want to drink to excess, or have to suffer the consequences of hangovers. In an age where everything is captured on video that makes even more sense (insert gratitude for being close to my 40’s before smart phones were popular).
Over two years speaking to customers, I’ve collected my own, anecdotal data. The reasons for going 'dry' are as varied and personal as the people I've spoken with. My biggest alcohol free customer base is women over 40. There are lots of specific health reasons, but for the most part, alcohol makes them feel terrible.
Last year Health Canada released new guidelines on alcohol consumption. So many of you found the one drink a week limit shocking, but took the advice seriously. Canada's reccomendations were quickly followed by the W.H.O. offering similar advice. It seems, no amount of alcohol consumption is now considered safe to consume.
Check out this summary from CTV News: Health Canada & Alcohol-What You Need to Know)
So what do we do with this information? I grew up in Gen X who used drinking as a right of passage. Alcohol was cheap, readily available, and we drank to excess. How do we wrap our heads around giving it up, or replacing it with "fake" booze? Or even grasping the idea that we don't need alcohol to have a good time?
Just like we did with cigarettes several decades ago, we seem to be shifting the conversation. We are becoming more understanding of those who don't imbibe, and accept when someone has a night off from alcohol. Restaurants and bars are building cocktail lists without alcohol, and we are starting to see alcohol free products popping up everywhere. It is much easier to navigate a life without alcohol.
As for me, I’ve been mostly alcohol free for almost a year. Truth is, the longer the stretches without alcohol, the less I seem to want it. And the worse I feel when I do drink. I love a good cocktail though (I DO own a cocktail shop) so I now save alcohol for special occasions. I only drink if I know I'm not working the next day. It always ruins my sleep, my body aches, and it takes longer for me to recover than when I was in my 20's.
What are your thoughts? Are you moderating, or going completely dry? How does it make you feel?
I’ll be rolling out some new products in the coming months, and hope you’ll stop by to check them out. I always have something open for tasting and will be adding some more recipes to the blog as the months progress.
I'm always happy to educate you on products, and how to understand alcohol free before you dive in looking for the exact replica of your favourite dry vodka Martini. Hint, you won't find it.
Pop by anytime to chat, and let me know what you’d like to see in stock. I’m always looking for great new ideas and products.