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Cheers to a new Sipping Trend

Nov 14, 2019 | Lifestyle

Non-drinkers now have a choice of delicious and sophisticated alcohol-free and low-alcohol drinks

TEXT Julia Freemantle PHOTOGRAPHS Supplied

A growing global trend towards healthier living (and drinking) has seen a wave of abstainers choosing to eschew alcohol in favour of more wholesome options. This, in turn, has prompted brands to supply the demand in the form of a range of new beverages that offer complexity and sophistication, sans intoxication.

From alcohol-free craft beer to dealcoholised and low-alcohol wine and zero-percent “gins”, a growing contingent of beverages offers increasing variety for those who choose not to partake.

“Internationally, there is a huge ‘healthification’ trend,” says Phillip Retief, CEO at Van Loveren Vineyards, in reference to its Almost Zero range. “Interestingly, this is not always a full-time approach, with many consumers taking a one-day-a-week strategy. There seems to also be a move, especially among younger people, of not drinking alcohol at all, or going ‘dry’ for extended periods.”

Leopard’s Leap Family Vineyards sees the younger health-conscious consumer as its primary target, “people who experiment with their beverage choices and those who follow a vegan lifestyle,” says winemaker Eugene van Zyl of the Natura range, which contains less than 0.5% alcohol (and about a tenth of the calories that normal wine does). “The product is also great for drinking during daytime events such as work functions and for designated drivers.”

Theresa Mouton from Vergin agrees that there has been a major change in behaviour when it comes to health considerations, and that this attitude shift is driving the market. “Apart from a specific awareness around the negative effects of alcohol, consumers are considering the link between diet and health,” she says. “Being mindful of what you eat and drink is the ‘new cool’.”

The UK brand Seedlip is one of the pioneers of non-alcoholic distilled drinks. “There are four key cultural forces at work that are impacting why we’re drinking less,” says Seedlip founder Ben Branson. “One, we’re healthier and have unprecedented access to information about what we should and shouldn’t be eating, drinking or doing. Two, we’re public – our lives are well documented on social media and the curation of how we appear to the world has greater importance than before. Three, we’re demanding – we expect variety, demand quality, and aren’t afraid to speak up for it. Four, we’re busy – life is a balancing act and we have less time to be hung-over.”

“There was a massive demand for non-alcoholic drinks that taste and look like adult beverages,” says Talita Calitz, marketing manager of the virgin G&T brand The Duchess. “When choosing not to drink, discerning consumers simply aren’t satisfied with sparkling water or sugary soft drinks. And rightfully so.”

And is it just a fad? The brands believe it’s here to stay. “Global sales stats show that since 2016 there has been a steady decline in alcohol sales, whereas the non-alcoholic sector has increasingly taken over as the fastest-growing beverage trend,” says Mouton. “So yes, it’s a movement.”

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