Sales of beer, wine and non-alcoholic spirits at major alcohol retailers have doubled in the past 12 months, according to new sales data.
- New alcohol-free craft brewers see increasing demand
- New bar specializing in non-alcoholic drinks hopes to normalize their consumption
- The number of ex-drinkers is slowly increasing across the country in recent years
Data from Endeavor Group, the company that manages BWS and Dan Murphy’s, shows a 100 percent increase in sales in the industry over the past year.
In response to growing demand, a new bar in Melbourne specializing in non-alcoholic drinks has just opened.
Of the nearly 100 drinks on Brunswick Aces’ menu, only one contains alcohol.
Bar co-founder Stephen Lawrence hopes consumers won’t be able to tell the difference between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
âThe beers and wines were produced in a very similar way to their alcoholic cousins,â he said.
Speaking at the launch, the entrepreneur said he believes bars are as much about socializing as they are about drinking alcohol.
âMost of the people I know who go out and drink are sociable, and you can do all of that and more here,â he said.
Alcohol-free brewer can’t keep up with demand
Producers of soft drinks say they cannot keep up with the increased demand for their products.
Andy Miller is the co-founder of a non-alcoholic beer company and says the company is growing rapidly to capitalize on the new trend.
âWe’ve doubled production almost every month, so about every two months we’re increasing production, and we’re still selling all of that stock just because of consumer demand,â he said.
Mr. Miller’s non-alcoholic beer costs about $ 65 per box of 24 beers.
He says the price reflects the fact that he has to buy more expensive ingredients to counter the fact that there is no alcohol in beer.
âThe alcohol has a lot of flavor so we have to really work hard to balance the recipe,â he said.
“This is part of the reason the cost is still not as cheap as some people would like.”
Mr. Miller and his business partners are part of a small but growing community of non-alcoholic beer craft brewers trying to change the way consumers view non-alcoholic beverages.
âOur end goal is really to have a positive impact on Australian drinking culture,â he said.
“It’s just about having another option that you can choose from whatever your lifestyle.”
Dan Murphy’s wine merchant Gabriella Rush said while the bulk of sales were still in alcoholic beverages, demand for non-alcoholic products was skyrocketing.
âIt’s an enthusiasm for beers, spirits and wineâ¦ but there is an intention to look at quality rather than quantity,â Ms. Rush said, noting a trend towards local and artisanal products.
âMany are looking for artisanal and more bespoke products. We have seen that people like to support locals and make smaller purchases.â
To meet growing demand, the retailer had to redesign its stores to create more shelf space for their alcohol-free offerings.
âWe had to dramatically reformat the store,â Ms. Rush said.
“There are a lot of berries that we had to devote to non-alcoholic options.”
Ex-drinkers a growing movement
Author and journalist Jill Stark quit drinking almost two years ago and had documented her journey with alcohol in the book High Sobriety.
She believes the non-alcoholic trend shows Australia is catching up with the rest of the world.
âIn bars in Europe for many, many years you can get alcohol-free draft beer. It’s just standard, âStark said.
“The European drinking culture is different from Australia where we drink to get drunk, while drinking there is rather fortuitous.”
Stark said when she quit drinking she was accused of being un-Australian, untrustworthy and boring.
“This very big culture of drinking, where we use alcohol to celebrate, to empathize, to commemorate and everything in between. When you choose to retire, it can be quite alienating,” he said. she declared.
“This is the last kind of stigma we need to break down that people who don’t drink are boring or can’t have fun.”
The writer said the boom in non-alcoholic options and bars like Brunswick Aces allowed him to participate in the social aspects of drinking, without the negative side effects.
“And I can do it with non-alcoholic champagne, or I can have a cold beer on a hot day.”
She is part of a growing cohort of people in the community that the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare calls “ex-drinkers.”
In the eyes of the federal government health agency, a former drinker is someone who has not had a drop of alcohol in the past 12 months.
Between the years 2016 and 2019, the proportion of former drinkers increased from 7.6% in 2016 to 8.9% in 2019.
Stark said the pandemic has led many people to reconsider their relationship with alcohol.
âWe’re going to see more of it as people become more health conscious and realize that alcohol is probably not the best friend or the best therapist when you’re going through tough times.
For Stark, her break up with alcohol is not a decision she regrets.
âI feel like I’m a much better version of myself when I’m not drinking. I’m happier, I’m calmer,â she said.