For a growing number of people, saying no to alcohol isn’t a ‘Dry July’ charity, but rather a lasting lifestyle change — and businesses are capitalizing on the zero-alcohol trend.
Most important points:
- Studies show that Australians drink less alcohol
- Drink-free is popular among younger generations
- It offers a range of business opportunities
Adrian Allier quickly saw the burgeoning business opportunities it presented. Last March, he opened Free Spirit Drink Co, the first 100 percent non-alcoholic beverage store in Perth.
“From day one, it was amazing how many people were actually interested in this product and wanted to buy these products,” he said.
“We started the company with just 30 products, we now have over 200.”
Not only has the product range grown, but Mr Allier noticed this in the demographics of the customer base.
“When we first started the business, most of my clients were women,” he said.
“But in the last six months, as the beer market has taken off – we now have over 75 different non-alcoholic beers that we sell – and now we see more men starting to change their habits.”
More non-alcoholic drink options
Michael Payne was part of this cohort and made a lifestyle change.
He stopped drinking alcohol in July 2020, but found that the liquor-free options were lacking at that time. So he decided to take matters into his own hands and create an alcohol-free beer.
He recruited Matt Crockett, a brewer at Little Creatures Brewery, to help make Lightning Minds pale ale last year.
“I think because we grew up in that era where everything you do and every time you celebrate it is (alcohol) around,” said the 42-year-old.
“You’re used to celebrating every moment of your life with a drink.
“Australian culture is wrapped around bars and pubs, but I found I had the same energy when I was in a pub environment with a beer in my hand, even if it was non-alcoholic.”
Others have since followed, with local craft beer brewer Gage Roads releasing Yeah Buoy, a non-alcoholic XPA, earlier this year.
Australian drinking culture is changing
Australia is known for its heavy drinking culture, but studies show this is changing rapidly, especially among younger generations.
Michael Livingston, an associate professor at UNSW Sydney’s National Drug and Alcohol Research Center (NDARC), says alcohol use among young adults in Australia has been steadily declining since 2000.
“On almost every measure and every study you look at, teens are drinking less, much less, than they were 20 years ago,” he said.
What is behind this behavioral change is still unknown.
Professor Livingston said there are several theories, from increased education about the health effects of alcohol to the constant surveillance aspect of social media.
“There are qualitative data interviews with young people that emphasize the idea of the kind of pressure they see themselves as performing as citizens, getting a good college degree, getting a good job, thriving in sports and ticking all these boxes. to tick,” he explained.
Sobriety more socially acceptable
Professor Livingston also pointed to the growing number of support services and movements, such as Dry July, Hello Sunday Morning and Untoxicated, that help people make healthier choices and begin to remove the social stigma of drink-free.
Sarah Rusbatch adds to this support network. After quitting drinking in 2019, she decided to make a career switch and became a certified health and wellness coach and an accredited “Grey Area Drinking Coach”.
“I think of drinking in a gray area as a scale of one to ten. One is someone who drinks very rarely, maybe once a year having a glass of champagne at a wedding,” she explained.
“Ten is someone who is physically dependent on alcohol — and what’s in between is the gray area.”
Ms. Rasbutch offers a variety of services from one-on-one coaching to group challenges.
She says she has supported more than 2,000 women to change their relationship with alcohol and points to the rapid growth of her business as proof that more people are waking up to the benefits of sobriety.
“I now have a free Facebook community, which is worldwide and includes 11,000 women.”
Just a passing trend?
Professor Livingston says it is still not known whether the growing sobriety in Australia is just a passing trend or whether it will continue. But when sales trends depend on anything, the alcohol-free category takes off.
Endeavor Group, owner of Dan Murphy’s and BWS, says non-alcoholic products remain one of their fastest-growing categories, with sales of these drinks in their stores growing more than 150 percent over the past two years.
Perhaps it’s telling that earlier this year Dan Murphy’s opened its first bar in Victoria called ZERO%, which sells only non-alcoholic drinks. Endeavor says it hopes to take the concept to new locations across the country.
Mr Allier pointed to the growing range of brands offering alcohol-free products as evidence of its growing popularity.
He said making non-alcoholic wine was a particularly difficult and expensive process, but more traditional wineries are investing resources into offering non-alcoholic options.
“It’s definitely not a passing trend,” Allier says.
“If it was a passing trend, I don’t think the investment would come. I don’t think big companies would invest as they are.”
Allier has plans to eventually expand his shops in Perth and perhaps open a non-alcoholic bar.
“Based on the amount of product we sell in Perth, I don’t think it’s going too far to say it will happen,” he said.
Mr. Payne also plans to expand Lightning Minds and offer a wider range of non-alcoholic beverages in addition to beer.
Ms. Rasbutch said from her experience that it is not just the younger generation, but also middle-aged people who are rethinking their relationship with alcohol.
“I think there is so much more awareness,” Ms. Rasbutch emphasizes.
“People talk about the dark side of alcohol instead of just saying ‘oh yes, alcohol is great and fun’. People openly say that alcohol causes anxiety, it causes depression, it ruins your hormones.”
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