Female Disruptors: Julie Cielo On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

Mar. 1, 2021

As health-conscious consumers seek refreshing, flavorful, and satisfying alternatives to traditional alcoholic beverages, no- and low-alcohol beers, spirits, and mocktails are gaining popularity, spurred by innovations in flavor, function, and variety.

Alcoholic beverages have played a starring role in social interactions since the beginning of human history, helping to cement friendships, celebrate life’s milestones, and launch longstanding customs and traditions. More recently, however, no- and low-alcohol (no-low) counterparts are making headway as a growing number of consumers embrace a more moderate, sober-conscious approach to consumption.

From beer and wine to spirits, seltzers, mocktails, and champagne, no-low beverages are rising in popularity, with recent research from Mintel indicating that one in five consumers has reduced alcohol consumption in an effort to make healthier beverage choices. Moreover, 55% of consumers who participated in a proprietary study conducted by flavor solutions manufacturer FONA reported drinking nonalcoholic beverages such as zero-proof cocktails and nonalcoholic seltzers at least two to three times a week.

“Globally, we are at the beginning of a paradigm shift in the role drinks play in people’s lives, with several bigger cultural forces at work,” Ben Branson, founder of distilled nonalcoholic spirits brand Seedlip, observes. “This means the timing and need for quality, adult nonalcoholic options has never been more relevant. I think people are also becoming increasingly mindful of their health (now more than ever), the origins of their food and drink, and the influence social-media-led lives have on consumption.”

Currently, no-low beer accounts for over 80% of the total global no-low beverage market and is expected to continue to lead the segment’s strong volume growth over the next few years, according to Sophia Shaw-Brown, senior insights manager at IWSR, a leading source of data and intelligence on the alcoholic beverage market. Shaw-Brown forecasts 15% growth for no-low beer in 2021, with more growth ahead through 2024.

Meanwhile, global no-low spirits consumption is expected to increase by over 70% by 2024, predicts Shaw-Brown. “Lots of startups are entering this space, identifying the significant opportunity which is being presented by the moderation trend as consumers increasingly seek premium alternatives to soft drinks and generic ‘mocktails.’ With powerful players in this segment, the spirits segment is expected to be one of the fastest-growing areas of low- and no-alcohol development,” she says.

Health-consciousness—already on the minds of consumers pre-COVID-19—is now trumping factors such as cost or peer influence when it comes to buying decisions, says Shaw-Brown. “IWSR research shows that for many legal drinking-age consumers under 40, a change in lifestyle due to COVID-19 has played a significant role in their increasing low- and no-alcohol consumption over the last year, while 40% of over-40s reported trying to be healthier as one of the driving factors behind their increased low- and no-alcohol intake,” she says.

Although the global market is still emerging, the outlook for the near future looks promising. Shaw-Brown expects to see over 35% growth in volume consumption by 2024, “driven by significant growth in key markets including the United States, Germany, and Spain. Major brand owners are turning their attention to the low- and no-alcohol space, creating increased category competition and visibility across most markets, in particular throughout Europe and North America,” she notes.

Interest in no-low ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages and beer is relatively low in the United States, with only 21% of U.S. adults who consumed alcohol in the three months prior to July 2020 choosing low ABV options, according to Mintel data. But consumption rose to 29% among U.S. adults aged 22–34 and 30% among those aged 35–44.

Jenny Zegler, associate director for Mintel Food & Drink, believes that the tendency for younger adults to be more likely to choose no-low options “suggests that the low-/no-alcohol segment has long-term potential because adults aged 22–44 are likely to continue their moderate alcohol consumption habits as they get older.”

Make Mine a Mocktail

Bartenders can attest to the growing popularity of mocktails, which have been a hit at restaurants and bars for several years among sober- conscious consumers. It’s no surprise, then, that the movement is hitting the ready-to-drink (RTD) market, which is enjoying some of the same innovation seen in the beer and spirits categories.

“Mocktails have been a thriving trend for years due to consumer interest in health and wellness and the growing ‘mindful drinking’ movement,” says Resh. “Nearly half (47%) of consumers under 35 agree that mocktails are just as good as cocktails, indicating opportunities for products such as RTD mocktails and zero-proof spirits, a small but fast-growing trend within the spirits market.”

“Creativity in the ready-to-drink alcoholic beverage is boundless, and it is seen within zero-proof cocktails as well,” agrees Olson, who cites consumers’ desires for “better-for-you as well as an upscale, craft experience or a simply delicious classic” as drivers. And with the advent of the pandemic, she says that consumers have been “unable to go to their favorite bar or restaurant and do not have the aspiration to make [mocktails] at home. They want convenience and they want it to deliver on taste/flavor.”

Distinctive taste and flavor are hallmarks of ISN’T Drinks’ nonalcoholic beverages, called Distinctivos. But make no mistake; Distinctivos are not mocktails. “We embrace the moniker zero-proof cocktails, but strongly dislike the term ‘mocktails,’” the company owners assert on their website. “We don’t intend to mock anything. Distinctivos are original, alternative cocktails, not knock-offs.”

Inspired by complex botanical blends found in alcoholic spirits, and focused on a full sensory experience encompassing texture, aroma, and color, ISN’T Drinks has launched three versions of DistinctivosAbsence, a distillation of angelica root, bergamot, and wormwood, mixing light bitterness with citrus and an accent of white grape; Rédessence, a floral-based mixture of roses, lavender, hibiscus, and elderflowers joined with ginger and spice and accented with rhubarb; and Mazy, a wine-inspired mixture incorporating pomegranate, black tea, gentian root, anise, and tart cherry.

By contrast, California-based Ferm Fatale positions itself as “the world’s first line of zero sugar, wildly fermented, raw, live, and organic ‘ready to drink’ mocktails in classic cocktail flavors.” The company prides itself on “raising the bar,” not only by leaving out the alcohol but by reducing sugar content and adding functionality in the form of B vitamins, good bacteria, yeast, and enzymes. The use of locally sourced, seasonal ingredients also contributes to founder Julie Cielo’s artisan approach and mission to position Ferm Fatale as a social revolution.

All of Ferm Fatale’s mocktails start with throwback lime “shrub” or vinegar-based fruit juice, which is mixed with kombucha and sweetened with monk fruit. Additions of cranberry, mint, and ginger juices complement the basic ingredients and differentiate the mocktail recipes. At zero net sugar, the line, which includes Shrub-Bucha MargaritaShrub-Bucha NojitoShrub-Bucha Cosmopolitan, and Shrub-Bucha Madame Mule, provides probiotic benefits at only 22 calories per serving.

See Full Article by Margaret Malochleb