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What Are Alcohol-Free Drinks and How Are They Different from Soft Drinks?
The no & low industry is booming. Gone are the days of dull and boring alcohol-free beverages. You no longer have to sit in a pub clutching an orange juice, because that’s about the only thing on offer. Now, the market has broadened, and it’s set to continue broadening in the coming years.
According to Forbes, 52% of adults are trying or have recently tried to cut down on their alcohol intake, which means they’re demanding more and more alcohol-free options. But why? A more health-conscious society might be one reason. Charity drives such as Dry January and Sober October have most definitely had an impact. The sugar tax, introduced in 2018, has also contributed to the drive towards healthier non-alcoholic alternatives. But the why of it doesn’t really matter. What matters is are the options available for those trying to take the healthier route —and the options are only getting better and better.
What does alcohol-free mean, anyway?
Soft drinks such as Coca-Cola and lemonade, as well as juices and waters, are, of course, alcohol-free. In the UK, ‘alcohol-free’ or ‘non-alcoholic’ means any product with an ABV of 0.05% or less. So, yes, soft drinks will naturally fall under that category, but that’s not really what people mean when they talk about alcohol-free products. Instead, they are talking about the range of non-alcoholic beers, wines, spirits, and cocktails that are increasingly finding their way to supermarket shelves.
What’s the difference?
The biggest difference between soft drinks and alcohol-free drinks is that alcohol-free drinks are designed to full of complexity and experience, factors that are often associated with alcohol. They are perfect for those who do not want to look or feel out of place at a party or in a pub, or be pestered by questions such as ‘what’s wrong?’ and ‘are you driving?’
The boom in this industry means that non-drinkers or those cutting down are no longer an after-thought, they are no longer considered to be that one oddball in a group of people drinking finely crafted beers or spirits. It’s no longer the case that the designated driver or the teetotaller has to have a lime and soda, because that is the only drink on offer. The rise of the alcohol-free market is bringing new age soft drinks to our world, and it’s something many people are embracing.
A Better Flavour
Brewers and distillers have spent years perfecting the flavour and texture of their offerings, and people love them. That’s what people want from alcohol-free beverages, too—people like the taste of beers, wines, spirits, and cocktails, and they don’t want to lose that. But traditional soft drinks and juices are tailored to a softer, simpler palate, not to the tastes of adults.
That’s what’s so great about this new wave of alcohol-free drinks. They offer a much greater depth and complexity of flavour, using more adult aromas such as ginger, hops, and botanicals. Companies such as Kolibri, Lyres, and Ceder’s are all at the forefront of creating bespoke adult drinks that are alcohol-free, rather than soft drinks which are so often aimed at children and teenagers.
Let’s be honest, a lot of the things we like about drinking is due to the experience. We all have our little rituals—the whole process of pulling that cold bottle of Chablis from the fridge, digging out the corkscrew, watching it glitter as it’s poured into the glass. You don’t get that so much with soft drinks, but you can with alcohol-free beverages. The current trend is aiming to produce experience rather than simply a drink. Right from the start, with beautiful packaging, through flavour-tailoring to ritual to taste, alcohol-free drinks aim to offer the consumer the quality, exclusivity, and sophistication that cannot typically be found in the soft-drinks market.
It’s more exciting and more creative than simply grabbing a can of soda or a bottle of juice. More and more alcohol-free drinks companies are offering customisable drinks, such as the Kolibri cap, a liqueur de dosage hidden in the lid of the bottle, meaning you can tailor your drink to suit your tastes—whether you prefer extra-dry or demi-sec. More and more, they’re giving you the opportunity to create an experience for yourself. More and more, these drinks are becoming complex, mature, and refined. So whether you’re chasing after flavourful products or an eventful and memorable experience, alcohol-free drinks are the way forward.