Non-alcoholic beverages have gained popularity over recent years - Here’s why...

[Article first appeared in the Cape Weekend Argus 4 June 2022] 

If you’re one who more often than not will welcome glass of wine with your dinner or enjoys classic G&T on a hot summer’s day, friends will find it rather odd if on a day you declined an offer of your favourite alcoholic beverage.

For some unjustifiable reason, one always finds compelled to find a logical reason or simply make up some kind of excuse as to why you’re not opting to have a drink.

If you’re a woman, people often assume you’re pregnant! That IS, of course a valid reason.

But why should you have to make up some silly excuse just because you’ve decided not to drink an alcoholic beverage?

In order to not raise too many eyebrows or avoid stupid questions, people now have the option to have non-alcoholic drinks. Not only can this get people off your back about not drinking booze, but it allows you to enjoy the taste of your favourite alcoholic beverage.

Thankfully, non-alcoholic (NoLo) beverages have gained popularity over recent years, and consumers now have a wider range of choices to choose from and are no longer restricted to non-alcoholic beers.

During the hard lockdown in 2020, the sale of alcoholic beverages was banned. South Africans went to great lengths to either obtain illegally or produce their own form of boozy drinks. Home brewed beers, including the popular pineapple beer, became normal.

While this might have been an option for some, others turned to NoLo drinks to enjoy their favourite drinks.

We spoke to Fiona Hilton and Caroline van Schalkwyk from Drink Nil e-tailers about how the pandemic changed the way people viewed NoLo drinks.

“We certainly saw upswings in sales when the lockdown alcohol bans were enforced - if people can't get access to their drink of choice, they will naturally gravitate towards the 'next best thing'.

However, according to Hilton, it wasn’t the bans that inspired them to launch Drink Nil in October 2020.

“It was not in response to the repeated bans, as we knew they would be short lived in the long run, but in response to a demand for healthier, quality, 'adult' alternatives to alcoholic beverages.”

They add that theirs a steady incline in popularity.

“There are stats to prove it. No/Low Alcohol Consumption forecasted to grow by +31% globally by 2024, according to the “No-and Low-Alcohol Strategic Study 2021” from IWSR Drinks Market Analysis. And South Africa is expected to experience the highest growth volume rate out of the 10 focus countries studied” says van Schalkwyk.

The ban on alcohol sales during lockdown forced South Africans to have a hard look at our toxic relationship with alcohol.

“Changing our relationship with alcohol is something we need to address as a country, says Hilton.

“We produce some of the most revered wines in the world, our brandies regularly trounce Cognacs in international competition, and the proliferation of local gin brands over the last decade has been astounding. We produce top-quality alcoholic drinks and should enjoy them in a way befitting of their globally-appreciated status. There is absolutely a place for them in our lives, but they should be savoured and appreciated for their uniqueness, not used as a blunt tool for coping with stress.”

On the upside, there’s a positive shift being led by the younger generation, whose focus on health and wellbeing has seen the adoption of no-alcohol or low-alcohol (‘NoLo’) beverages as the norm.