Growing thirst for alcohol-free ‘alternative’ spirits

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

Le Roux: The future of non-alcoholic adult drinks will be led be startups, not existing brands
Le Roux: The future of non-alcoholic adult drinks will be led be startups, not existing brands
Growing consumer demand for alcohol-free, adult soft drinks has sparked a wave of new start-ups hoping to capitalise on the expanding category, as evidenced in Wednesday’s (15 May) UK Soft Drinks Conference.

From non-alcoholic gin and tonics to premium aperitifs, this year’s conference showcased some of the leaders in the up-and-coming market of ‘alternative’ spirits.

For South African businessman Johannes Le Roux, founder of drinks brand The Duchess, the answer is not to try and force yourself into the existing alcoholic drinks space. By stepping away from traditional beers and spirits, you are no longer bound by the rules and regulations that guide their creation, opening up greater possibilities for innovation.

Disruption in the category

“We’re seeing a lot of alcoholic brands making non-alcoholic versions of ​[existing products], leveraging their existing brands, but in the long run, disruption is going to come from completely new brands that are ‘born’ alcohol-free,”​ said Le Roux. “They aren’t limited to the same brand language or the same ideas of occasions ​[for drinking].”

By breaking free from the shackles and social stigma surrounding the alcoholic drinks category, The Duchess has opened itself up to more possibilities for when consumers, particularly millennials, can enjoy its products. Non-alcoholic gins, beers and other spirits allow generation Z to “work hard, play hard” ​without the negative repercussions of hangovers.

Adult market

Aiming its sights on the more adult market was Æcorn Aperitifs, offering an alternative to pre-dinner drinks more varied than juices and sparkling water.

Drawing on centuries-old recipes, Æcorn’s range focuses on replicating drinking experiences without having to rely on alcohol to dictate their ‘quality’.

“We are trying to give reassurance to the consumer by creating things they already recognise – familiarity with a little bit of innovation without being too far from what they already know,” ​said managing director Claire Warner.

“I think the days are gone where we are judging how great a drink is purely by if it contains alcohol or not.”

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