As Director of Australia’s largest consumer survey of innovation I’ve seen many new categories emerge over the last 13 years. I have not, however, seen one grow as rapidly as the adult non-alcoholic beverage category.
In October 2019, when I quit alcohol, I was on the hunt for alcohol-free wine. At the time I found one tiny independent online retailer, a few token gestures in Dan Murphy’s and Coles and nothing at all in restaurants and bars.
I was frustrated and surprised. Surely there were more people like me who didn’t just want soft drink, juice or soda with lime, a mint leaf and 10 spoons of sugar (a.k.a. mocktail mojito)?
I started @sober_sommeiler in April 2020 to document my discovery of the growing number of adult non-alcoholic drinks in Australia. In 2021 the account has over 3.5K followers, and I launched a new site www.tappedin.com.au which includes a growing directory of the venues that serve adult non-alc options Australia-wide.
One of the most common complaints I hear from consumers is that they struggle to find choice in restaurants and bars. Conversely, I hear from owners that there is little to no demand for them. My own research, including the growing number of signatures I have gathered on my non-alc in Australian venues petition and the projected 16% category growth from the IWSR Drinks Market Analysis for 2021-2024 indicates otherwise.
Demand is real. Venues that stock and, more importantly, promote, that they are alcohol-free friendly, attract new customers that otherwise may stay home. Baby showers, gender reveals, health and fitness groups, mindful drinkers/non-drinkers still want to socialise, and they want to do it like grown-ups. They just need to know where they can go!
What’s more, like me, they have friends who drink alcohol who want to support them. My friends will now only go to places that cater for me too. And my friends drink A LOT of alcohol (profit goes UP in these venues 😀)
If venues don’t start to ramp up non-alc offerings, consumers will likely become even more comfortable and used to drinking at home, buying online and not going out at all than they are already, thanks to the impact of COVID.
People need a reason to go out. They want to go out. And research shows 23% of Aussies drink one drink or less per week and the numbers are growing. It follows that if a venue is proactive, providing an inclusive environment, serving a few top-notch non-alc options, the people will come.
All this in mind and with 18 months of research and trial and error, here are the go-tos that I recommend that are firm favourites in the growing mindful drinking community.
You can order them all now on Kaddy!
If nothing else having a decent non-alcoholic sparkling will put you top of the list for celebrations of all kinds, from baby showers to 80th birthdays and everything in between. Most group gatherings these days have a few non-drinkers. Do them a favour, help them feel included and catered for, and offer them a glass or bottle of bubbles they can enjoy. Top pick – Noughty. It’s delicious, dry and bubbly! Also looks great and can be sold for an affordable but profitable price.
Recent winner of the pale ale tasting I did recently was Free Time by Bridge Road Brewers. It’s been two years in the making and has all the characteristics of a pale ale. Clean & fresh and very popular with the ladies ( as well as the gents)
Firm favourite of mine and one that has sold out multiple times is Heaps Normal. The general consensus is that you wouldn’t know the difference and I concur. When I see that a venue stocks this product it’s a decider on where I go.
SOBAH is an incredible Australian Aboriginal family owned brand doing amazing things in the community. Whilst not to my personal taste they are extremely popular and growing rapidly. The Pepperberry IPA and the Davidson Pale Ale seem to be the crowd-pleasers.
Many venues are now stocking at least one or two of the Lyre’s non-alc spirit range. Top picks for me are the Italian Spritz and the Amaretto, and you can also make a mean non-alc espresso martini with the Coffee Originale and White Cane Spirit.
Ovant is also a personal favourite and ideal if you’d like to offer a high-end non-alc experience. Ovant have been getting rave reviews in the sober community as sophisticated, flavourful spirits that give the experience of alcohol without the downside. My favourite is Royal, a rum alternative, neat with ice.
Altina Drinks offer two zero-proof craft cocktails with low sugar and unique flavour combinations. La Vie en Rose, with hibiscus and pink rose petals, and Light Me Up, with forest berries and native wattleseed. Perfect alternative to bubbles and they do not emulate alcohol so are great for many non-drinkers. Also available in handy ready-to-drink cans.
If you’re considering dipping your toe into alcohol-free waters here are some stats;
You may also like to explore the growing number of social media influencers and communities. Here scores of ‘mindful’ and ‘non- drinkers’ are launching accounts daily promoting the benefits of an alcohol-free life and demand for more choice in venues.
Here’s a link to my growing petition so you can see for yourselves!
Why not be a leader and communicate to your community that you support all Australians who want to socialise and have a good time, as soon as they can!
If you already stock AF options and would like to be featured on the Tapped In directory of alcohol-free friendly venues, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
And be sure to follow @sober_sommelier on Instagram to keep up with the growing Aussie alcohol-free community.
– Sarah Connelly
She is a non-drinker and passionate advocate for alcohol-free options in retailers and venues in Australia.