There is an ever-expanding group of Canadians who are choosing to limit their consumption of – or opting for alternatives to – alcoholic beverages.
This new market niche has been dubbed ‘sober curious‘ and refers to a group of people (mostly millennials) who are opting for alternatives to alcoholic drinks such as alcohol-free champagne, wine, or cider. The market segment includes a sub-niche known as ‘mindful’ or ‘smart’ drinkers who might enjoy an alcoholic beverage at a special event, but might also being comfortable not drinking alcohol at all.
The Conference Board of Canada’s Brewing up Benefits report states that non-alcoholic beer accounts for 1.2% of total beer sales, and has increased by more than 50% between 2013 and 2018. The report attributes this phenomenon to Canadians’ lifestyle and preference changes – particularly among millennials, who are focusing more on health and wellness. This change was made easier by an ever-growing assortment of non-alcoholic beverages.
Large commercial brewers have slowly been entering and testing the non-alcoholic beer segment in an attempt to change what Todd Allen, Labatt’s VP of Marketing, said “is a category which had a lot of historical baggage, [and] perceived as appealing to people with substance abuse problems, or to pregnant women.” Allen notes that entering this market appears to have paid off, with Labatt reporting that sales of alcoholic alternatives have “been doing very well, [with] the majority of the volume coming from the 19 to 35 age group – young and increasingly health-conscious beer drinkers.”
Labatt isn’t the only company to embrace this shift. An Anheuser-Busch InBev report estimates that by 2025, non-alcoholic or lower-alcohol beer will account for 20% of their sales volume.
The demand for non-alcoholic beer is gaining momentum across Canada. Data from 2019 found a steady increase in demand for non-alcoholic beer, particularly in the province of Alberta. The Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission states that non-alcoholic beer sales have increased steadily since 2012. The Government of Canada (along with Beer Canada, the country’s beer regulating body) has monitored beer market trends and have amended Canada’s beer standard. The amendments focus on providing stronger support for innovation and preservation of beer’s quality, bringing it to a uniform level.
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