Wherever you looked at the end of 2022, end of the year articles mentioned the meteoric rise of non-alc. The market for no- and low-alcohol beverages hit $11 billion last year, and are projected to grow by 7% (a 2% increase over the growth of the last 4 years).
All of that is great news for investors, producers, and non-alc retail shops like ours, of course, but what trends can the people who drink this stuff expect in 2023?
While we can’t predict the future, we looked at the trendsetters and tastemakers in the zero-proof world and put together our list of what we expect for non-alc in the new year.
More non-alcoholic red wines will hit the market
Non-alcoholic red wines and wine alternatives have lagged behind whites and rosés in both quantity and quality. In 2022, we saw big leaps forward in keeping tannins intact after de-alcoholization, with brands like Sovi and Noughty offering red wine blends that were finally distinguishable from Welch’s grape juice. Our extremely limited amount of Oddbird’s red wines sold out faster than any other type, but we’ll have a lot more stock when we start selling the cult non-alcoholic wine-maker’s newest red sometime next year. If you’re not already, make sure you get on our email list so you don’t miss out when it arrives!
De-alcoholized wine will move away from specific grapes and embrace blends
De-alcoholized wine thus far has largely been made from and marketed as one particular grape (or varietal, as they are known in the wine world). While Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are immediately recognizable to most wine drinkers, selling a particular varietal creates certain expectations. The de-alcoholization process can change the flavor of wine in unexpected ways, however, so stubbornly sticking to a single grape for non-alcoholic wines can result in disappointment on the palate. The most successful non-alcoholic wines we’ve tasted have been blends of two or more grapes, blended to taste after de-alcoholization. In 2023, we expect to see more non-alcoholic winemakers embrace mixing, like Oddbird’s Low Intervention Organic White No. 2. Not only liberated from alcohol, as their motto goes, but freed from single varietal expectations, Oddbird’s blends have the nuance and complexity necessary to fulfill wine drinkers’ expectations.
Traditional bars will figure out they can make more money offering non-alcoholic drinks beyond soda water
Maybe it took two or three new non-alc bars opening up what seemed like every week in 2022, but traditional bar owners are finally taking note of the undeniable market for booze-free craft cocktails. Coupled with the rise of “Damp Lifestyle” content on social media, the bar world is learning that 82% of people who drink NA beverages drink alcohol, too, and often in the same night. Expect every type of bar, from neighborhood dives to cocktail cathedrals like Death & Co.– who finally put non-alc options on their menu this year– to drop the derision for non-alc and provide more (and more exciting) options for their customers in 2023.
More big box retailers will stock zero-proof drinks
Add some non-alcoholic spirits to your shopping list with the laundry detergent, toothpaste, and trash bags. Some regions are already seeing Lyre’s, Ritual Zero Proof, and other booze-free options at big box retailers like Target and CVS, and we only expect to see the number of offerings, and where you can find them, expand in 2023.
The movement to overturn outdated non-alc beer laws will grow
In several states, like Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, Illinois, and Kansas, direct to consumer shipment of nonalcoholic beer is still prohibited. Some of these are outdated laws that go all the way back to Prohibition, lumping all malt beverages together, while others are the result of beer distributors lobbying to monopolize non-alcoholic beer sales. While we probably won’t see these laws overturned in 2023, we do expect to see not only companies but consumers getting involved in the movement to repeal them.
The backlash to craft non-alc beer is coming
While we will always love our Athletic Brewing Company IPAs and seasonal porters, sometimes you just want a break from the hops. More small scale breweries and single beer brewers like Al’s and Visitor will capitalize on the Millennial nostalgia for something that tastes like the $1 beer specials of their college years.
Analogues of existing spirits will taper off while original zero-proof spirits will explode
The runaway success of The Pathfinder Hemp & Root, a non-alc spirit with a wholly original flavor profile still legible as an amaro, will inspire other non-alc producers to venture into the unknown. With solid choices for base spirits like gin, whiskey, rum, and tequila already available, the demand for complex, even challenging flavors will only increase in 2023.
Restaurants will get serious about pairing non-alc with food
More restaurants have put at least a few non-alc offerings on their menus, but thoughtful options that highlight the food are still rare. In 2023, expect to see uninspired defaults like virgin mojitos, cucumber ginger beers, and fruity lemonades replaced by drinks that reflect and enhance the flavors coming out of the kitchen. More restaurants will follow trailblazers like sommelier Miguel de Leon, who selects zero-proof options to enhance the flavors of the cuisine at New York’s Pinch Chinese, and bar director Kevin Bragg at Atlanta’s Georgia Boy, where the Willy Wonka-esque tasting menu is paired with non-alc cocktails as inventive and enchanting as the food.
More sea vegetables will be included in botanical beverages
According to Pinterest’s Trend Forecast for 2023, not only are non-alcoholic cocktail searches up 225%, but interest in sea veggies is noticeably expanding. Pentire has been years ahead of both trends with Seaward, a non-alcoholic spirit made with coastal botanicals, including local seaweed! Far from tasting fishy, however, it has a crisp, citrus and floral flavor from sea buckthorn berry. Expect to see more booze-free options that capitalize on both the flavors and benefits of seaweed, sea cucumber, and other marine plants.