These Rapidly Growing Non-Alcoholic Beverages May Encourage A Damp July

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While many of us know of Dry January and Sober October, there’s a campaign in Australia called Dry July that encourages people to reset their relationship with alcohol mid-year and raises funds for people affected by cancer.

Although a month without alcohol sounds intimidating and downright awful for many, it’s an opportunity to feel healthier and nourish your mind and body. To be fair, it’s winter in July in Australia, and most of my friends, including me, enjoy a good spicy skinny margarita, a refreshing Aperol spritz or chilled prosecco in the summer heat. I like to encourage health and balance through a more “Damp July” by reducing alcohol consumption. So why cut back?

No amount of alcohol is safe, and according to a recent study by the WHO, alcohol has been declared a carcinogen. The effects of alcohol alarmed more people in June’s WSJ article about how alcohol guidelines will likely be updated. In perspective, there are many things out there that are just as unhealthy for us – for example, terrible seed oils used at almost every restaurant, heavy metals and plastics in our kitchen tools and pans, artificial and carcinogenic ingredients and, most concerning, loneliness from a lack of socializing.

As someone who does not drink much alcohol, I’ve covered the health benefits of skipping alcohol in the past. I encourage a dry or a “damp” July to help you better assess your relationship with alcohol and empower you to use control over how much you drink. More people are following this trend, as evidenced by the continued rise of the business of non-alcoholic beverages. The non-alcoholic beverage trend is especially prevalent among Millennials (people between the ages of 26 and 41) and Gen Zers (people between 12 and 27). Gen Z is drinking more than 20% less than other generations did at their age.

From low-alcohol options to canned cocktails, we continue to see more brands respond to consumer demands with booze-free alternatives, and several brands have expanded their offerings. For example, Aplós is a personal favorite, and I love its Aplós Calm, which is infused with botanical adaptogens and hemp. They recently launched canned cocktails in “Chill Margarita” and “Ume Spritz” flavors.

Athletic Brewing Co. is the leading non-alcoholic beer company that helped popularize the “non-alcoholic alcohol” trend. Surprising to many, most Athletic Brewing customers do indeed drink but are conscious of reducing the amount of alcohol they consume. Athletic Brewing now accounts for 19% of the beer market.

Bartenders are also diversifying and many noted that Aperol and Campari have regained their popularity, far more than a dry martini. Hard kombucha and seltzer such as Topo Chico Margaritas, are also on the rise.

Hiyo, one of the fastest-growing non-alcoholic beverages on the market, has impressed me. Despite their gorgeous branding, organic adaptogens, functional nootropics and botanicals, I admire that they have grown without celebrity affiliation or endorsement. They have over $30M in gross revenue since May 2021 and growth of 983% in 2022 and 271% in 2023, with a forecast of nearly 75% year-over-year growth in 2024. Additionally, they have expanded into 4,000+ new retail locations as of mid-2024, leading the category with a $42.88 average rate of sale (sales in USD per SKU per store per week). Hiyo has more than 8,900 5-star reviews.

From a wine spirit perspective, and this one does include a celebrity, I’ve enjoyed DeSoi, a sparkling booze-free apéritif founded by Katy Perry and Morgan McLachlan. De Soi has grown its retail business by 300% year over year and is now in over 5000 retail stores, including Target, Whole Foods, Publix, Sprouts and Southern California’s trendy Erewhon. Recurring subscriptions make up 50% of their online revenue. DeSoi’s offers Très Rosé, their top-selling flavor, Golden Hour and their newest flavor, Spritz Italiano, which is my favorite and on track to be their new best-seller.

As more people seek hangover-free and lower-calorie options, cannabis and THC drinks are also on the rise, stealing market share from wine, beer and hard alcohol. According to data from the Brightfield Group, sales of hemp-derived THC drinks were up by 143% in 2023.

In 2023, the hemp beverages market was $98.1 million, below CBD drinks ($166.9 million) and well behind the marijuana-derived THC versions ($347 million). A BevAlc report showed that more than half of respondents said cannabis-infused drinks have the industry’s highest growth potential. The cannabis-infused drinks market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 37.8%, reaching $8.7 billion in annual sales by 2032. Nonetheless, significant education and regulation needs to occur for high-level decision-makers to be able to develop policies that don’t put people in bad positions or lead to endless loopholes.

While I steer more towards adaptogen and hemp beverages, I admire how, Nowadays, a cannabis-infused beverage has explosively grown as a business. Co-founders Justin Tidwell and Anthony Puterman launched Nowadays in April 2023 to bridge the gap between non-alcoholic and alcoholic products, creating the perfect middle ground to achieve a social buzz minus the hangover.

The brand instantly took off, generating $1 million in sales in its first two months! By the end of 2023, only eight months after launch, Nowadays achieved $2.5 million in sales. By way of the 2018 Federal Farm Bill, bottles are now sold directly to consumers as hemp-derived beverages in 35+ states. Available in 3 doses (micro, low and high), the brand has also achieved direct-to-consumer growth with its consistent virality on TikTok.

Similar to how we see it in gambling, sports betting or excessive triathlon, I see the danger of people replacing one addiction with another, but if consuming alcohol, hemp or cannabis can be done in moderation, I feel everyone is entitled to do as they choose.

Individuals should be able to control what they drink (and eat!), and when you can empower yourself to exercise that control, you will see the greatest benefits — be it in fitness, food and cocktails! On-demand delivery also never hurts, and that’s where we’re headed, as alcohol direct-to-consumer sales are at their peak. Whether you choose sobriety or a Damp July, exercise control and do what keeps you as happy and healthy as possible.

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