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Why Are People Paying Top Dollar for Alcohol-Free Beverages?

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alcohol-free beverages

Thirty years ago, most restaurants didn’t offer vegetarian options. Fifteen years ago, gluten-free menus were rare. In a few years, a full menu of  alcohol-free beverages might be standard for bars.

What’s going on with this latest trend?

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Sales of Alcohol-Free Beverages Explode

alcohol-free beveragesThe “mocktail”/non-alcoholic  and alcohol-free  beverages that some people labeled a passing fad several years ago are still around. And they’re growing in popularity.

In the past year, sales of alcohol-free beverages grew 33.2 percent. In fact, non-alcoholic beer and cider sales grew 31.7 percent.  The sales of non-alcoholic spirits shot up 113.4 percent.

According to the IWSR—an alcohol marketing analysis group—this trend isn’t slowing down any time soon. They expect the entire industry to grow more than 31 percent by 2024, with more and more establishments offering alcohol-free  beverages.

We can already see evidence of this growth in bars and restaurants. In Chicago, local establishments have joined the trend with non-alcoholic mixers like Pepperberry Tonic, Remedy, Hummingbird, and Duke of Earl.

And in Singapore, some restaurants are even pairing alcohol-free  beverages with their entrees. The beverage manager at the Cloudstreet restaurant explains, “We did not want to exclude our non-drinking guests from a complete experience.”

But consumers who want this experience are paying top dollar for it. The price for many non-alcoholic drinks is just as high or even higher than their alcoholic counterparts.

Low Alcohol = High Price

Why are people paying so much for alcohol-free beverages?

It’s a combination of factors.

First, there’s the cost to make the drinks. Crafters of these creative beverages want to deliver something that tastes like the real thing. They’re using complex formulas and methods to perfect the flavor of each beverage.

Justin Hicklin, chairman of the non-alcoholic spirits startup CleanCo, explains, “We use eight or nine different… distillation techniques to be able to extract flavors. That’s an enormously complex thing to do — and quite costly.”

Mark Livings, CEO of non-alcoholic spirits company Lyre’s, says their products “have ingredients that are procured from 39 different countries of origin in order to deliver the exact flavor profile. Some of them are so complex that they have more than 36 different flavor notes.”

But so far, pricing doesn’t seem to be an issue for those seeking alcohol-free beverages. Consumers are apparently willing to pay for the quality.

If the non-alcoholic drinks have the same aroma, taste, and feel of traditional drinks, consumers will pay for the cost to make them.

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Why the Demand for Alcohol-Free Beverages?

alcohol-free beveragesOf course, it doesn’t matter how much it costs to make something. If consumers aren’t willing to buy them, beverage-makers won’t be able to charge a thing for their mixes. But they’re finding plenty of demand for their concoctions.


Part of this demand is the health factor.

People today want to “drink healthier,” says Jeff Menashe, founder of the alcohol-free beverage company Demeter & Co. And he’s probably onto something.

According to research by the International Journal of Drug Policy, younger folks who grew up in the midst of wellness movements and organic product trends are drinking less alcohol than previous generations.

In search of healthier options, these consumers are turning to non-alcoholic beverages.


Consumer are also looking for creative options. Whether they’re in recovery or don’t drink for other reasons, teetotalers seem to be enjoying the wider variety. The expanded non-alcoholic beverage market is making options beyond soft drinks, juice, water, and a few common mocktails.

Dan Durkin, beverage director at The American Club Singapore, notes that people “want options other than just a plain old soft drink, but something more interesting and crafted.”


Singaporean Eunice Tan couldn’t agree more. She says, “Mocktails have always been overly sweet and kiddy… I could mix OJ and 7Up myself. When I’m dining out or at a bar, I’d appreciate creativity and thoughtfulness from the establishment in catering to adult tastes.”

Menashe believes the market is wide open for sales of their non-alcoholic options. He estimates there are “between seven to 10 million potential consumers in the United Kingdom and another 12 to 15 million in the United States.”

And just how much are consumers willing to pay for these alcohol-free beverages? Guests at Cloudstreet who want the “full experience” fork over an extra $94 per person.

That’s probably not for everyone.

For those with a smaller beverage budget, there’s CleanCo’s non-alcoholic bottle of Hendrick’s gin for $25. Or a refreshing Pepperberry Tonic at Bar Kumiko will add just $15 to your tab.

While alcohol-free beverages offer an alternative to beer, wine, or liquor, they do not necessarily help people get sober. They may even trigger a relapse for people in recovery if the drinks are similar to the “real thing.”

If you struggle to control how much or how often you drink, help is available. Call 800-948-8417 Question iconCalls are forwarded to these paid advertisers to learn about treatment programs for alcohol addiction.

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