There is an ever-expanding group of Canadians who are choosing to limit their consumption of – or opt for alternatives to – alcoholic beverages.
While Statistics Canada found that almost 5.1 million Canadians said they engaged in heavy drinking at least once a month in 2021, it was the lowest level of heavy drinking recorded since 2015. StatsCan’s 2021 survey found that one in five Canadians reported drinking less than they did pre-pandemic; among those aged 15 to 29, a full one-third had decreased their alcohol consumption.
It’s part of the ‘sober curious’ movement – a culture that encourages not only sobriety, but welcomes those who might not be willing, ready, or planning to give up alcohol. It dovetails nicely with Canadians’ increased focus on health and well-being (as well as the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction’s guidelines that drastically reduced the amount of alcohol consumption that’s considered safe). Millennials and Generation Z have led the charge, and are consuming less, lighter, or no alcohol. And this, in turn, has led to an increase in non-alcoholic products and sales.
The Liquor Control Board of Ontario began stocking non-alcoholic drinks in 2018; today, it carries 16 different products in this category (including beer, wine, a spirit, and a mixed drink), and is launching five more wines and two beers next year. The LCBO also notes that sales of these products have grown 20% in the past year. Beer Canada estimates that non-alcoholic beer sales volumes are growing 22 to 25% – faster than most alcohol categories.
Beer is by far the most popular non-alcoholic beverage category, with wine in a distant second place. But the Canadian Health Food Association has noticed an ‘explosion’ of canned zero-proof ready-to-drink items, including Canada’s own craft cocktail Olé.
Growth trends indicate that innovative and health-conscious non-alcoholic beverage makers may find a receptive market in Canada.