A booming interest in health, and an exploding supply of tasty non-alcoholic substitutes drive the trend globally and in Sweden especially. “It’s obvious that the market is ready for this type of product”, says Erika Ollén, co-founder of non-alcoholic spirit brand Gnista.
A persistent myth about Swedes is that they still drink like the Vikings. There is still a stronger spirit culture than in the Mediterranean countries, but the truth is that Sweden also is in the forefront of the “no low” and “sober curiosity” movements – mainly thanks to the strong health interest and sustainability culture. Today it’s not uncommon to party with a mocktail or to enjoy a cold brew tea or kombucha with dinner instead of wine.
Not long ago the only non-alcoholic alternatives to a gin & tonic were sodas, a sugary umbrella drink or a glass of sparkling water with a slice of lemon. Today non-alcoholic beverages are taking up a significant amount of space both in bars and in the shelves of state alcohol-monopoly Systembolaget.
Non-alcoholic beverages were the product category that showed the largest growth in 2019 for Systembolaget. Wine, cider and beer are best sellers in the category and sales have more than quadrupled between 2009 and 2019 according to Systembolaget’s’ sales statistics.
The trend is global – In Great Britain the leap in sales of low or non-alcoholic beer is 30 percent since 2016, according to The British Craft Beer Report. Just like in Sweden, “no low” is estimated to be the UK’s biggest drinking trend for 2020, driven by 18-24-year-olds drinking less alcohol, according to the same report.
In the Sifo survey “Dryckeskollen” conducted by beer company Carlsberg Sverige, almost one in three Swedes have once or several times gone sober for a month in the past two years. More than 6 out of 10 are considering doing it in 2020. The main driver of the trend is the wish to be healthier, according to the survey.
Swedish restaurants, bars and nightclubs are meeting the growing demand for non-alcoholic options, in 2019 restaurant and night club group Stureplansgruppen launched a whole range of non-alcoholic spirits, and in the fine dining restaurants set menus of non-alcoholic alternatives are today a given.
The trend is witnessed in the home as well, where unit sales of non-alcoholic beer in supermarket-chain Coop, has increased by 400 percent over the past five years, a year on year growth of 25 percent.
Suppliers are, not surprisingly, quick to meet the new demands. Along with non-alcoholic equivalents to beer and cider, a smorgasbord of other exciting beverages with more complex and “adulty” flavorings have developed such as kombucha, matcha tea, Swedish beverage “must” and handcrafted tonics.
We B Tea – cold brew tea founder Beatrice Garvey says she wants to change the way people look at tea as a non-alcoholic beverage alternative in the Nordic countries:
“I started drinking it with meals and one day when I had it with my noodle salad, I realized what a fabulous combination it was.”
When nonalcoholic spirit brand Gnista was launched in 2018, co-founder Erika Ollén had been missing nonalcoholic spirits with the qualities that one would identify with real spirits, such as complexity, body, friction, tannins etc.
“We spoke with top bartenders who confirmed the demand for a product that could lift both flavor and status of mocktails, and hence have the qualities that would enable them to be the base in nonalcoholic drinks”, says Erika Ollén.
Gnista launched its first product Floral Wormwood on the European market in 2018, and the response have been overwhelming, according to Erika Ollén.
“It’s obvious that the market is ready for this type of product. Our target group is people who enjoy drinks and the taste of alcohol, but who from whatever reason – sometimes or always chose to refrain from it”.
Erika Ollén is convinced we’re just at the beginning of the nonalcoholic trend.
“Absolutely! The combination health trends, and more developed products gives a multiple effect. Take beer for example, since beer became just as tasty without alcohol, sales in the category has exploded.”