It’s official: The biggest trend in bars are drinks without booze.
The non-alcoholic, or no-proof, space is growing among consumers and bars, according to a new study by Distill Ventures. The study, released this month, surveyed bartenders and consumers in London, Los Angeles and New York as well as analyzed sales and menu data at influential accounts. Distill Ventures, a drinks-focused accelerator, backs new and existing beverage brands, such as Seedlip; the accelerator first began tracking the growth of the no-proof drinks space in 2017.
Among the key findings: 61% of U.K. consumers want better choices in non-alcoholic drinks, while 55% of London bartenders believe the no- and low-ABV trend will continue to grow in the next year. In Los Angeles, meanwhile, 83% of bar managers surveyed say that no-proof drinking is part of a growing trend.
The trend is not just coming from bars, however. Consumers are actively seeking out better drinks options.
“The growth story is really consumer-driven,” Heidi Dillon Otto, Distill Ventures portfolio director, says. “The [no-proof] conversation has become much more mainstream. The number of press mentions that have happened from January of this year to now, compared to last year, is exponential.” Online searches for the word “mocktail,” for example, are up 42% over the past year, while the phrase “non-alcoholic” is up 81% across global searches over the past year, according to Google Trends.
The rise of high quality no-proof products, such as U.K.-based Seedlip, is growing most rapidly in London. In the last year, there were 271 “premium soft drink” launches in the U.K. More notably, there were just four non-alcoholic spirits available in the U.K. as of April 2018; by Oct., that number grew to 42.
In the U.S., Los Angeles, a city with a well-established reputation for putting health and wellness first, seems to be leading the way for no-proof drinks. One unnamed Los Angeles venue (Distill would not release the names of participating bars) is serving up to 100 non-alcoholic cocktails every day, far above the industry average of 30 – 40 no-proof drinks per week. Over 40% of restaurants surveyed in Los Angeles featured their own non-alcoholic drinks menu, compared to 30% of New York premises.
And while the media attention to no-proof drinks might suggest that people are quitting drinking altogether, that’s not necessarily the case. What bars are finding is that offering dedicated non-alc drinks brings an entirely new revenue stream. “If you have a spirited menu and you add a new drink, the dollars will exchange between the spirited cocktails,” Otto says. “But if you add a non-alc drink, you may get someone who would normally order a Pellegrino, who’s now ordering a sophisticated drink. There’s incremental sales that come from that.” On the West Coast, non-alcoholic drinks ring in $13,000 on average per year compared to $10,500 average in New York, according to Distill’s research.
“The movement is happening, it’s here,” Otto says. “We’ve seen it in data, now we’re seeing in the press and online searches. The idea of [having more choices] is key to consumers.”