Whether it’s for health, control or fashion, low ABV products are here to stay.
Few would argue that consumers are more attuned to health & diet and what goes into our bodies than ever before. Millennials in particular seem to be more committed to healthful lifestyles than say, their baby boomer parents or grandparents.
Regarding alcoholic beverages, abstaining or drinking less are an option that has always been available to people, yet sometimes with a bit of derision sent their way, i.e. the term ‘teetotalers’. But it is an option that seems to be increasingly chosen. Indeed, ‘Dry-January’ seems to grow in participation every year: in Great Britain (where it started in 2013 before quickly migrating to the rest of Europe and the U.S.) had 4 million folks take the on-line pledge (out of 66 million residents). In the US a recent survey reported 13% of those polled said they were participating in Dry-January. But all or nothing seems to be a bit draconian to many responsible drinkers, so some foresightful creatives have given us the ultimate consumer product: choice.
Over the past year or so, we have been presented with a steady stream of low or zero proof products—spirit-type products mostly—from both new and established producers. We have now tried all or most of the most successful products, and we can report a couple of things. First, there is a wide range in the quality of the products; some are downright screechy on the palate and other than the fact they have no alcohol (just like water or soda), they have little appeal. The better ones can actually taste appealing, though (and we admit haven’t tried everything) still not very close to the flavor profile of the spirit products they attempt to be substitutes for. Note too, that these better options are not cheap: the better ‘gin substitutes’ we’ve tried all retail for between $30 and $40 a bottle. This shocks many people—there’s no booze in here after all. But the costs are justified: they typically use the same processes—even more steps sometimes—and almost always many of the same high-quality ingredients. So other than any alcohol taxes, the costs are the same or higher.
As mentioned, the vast majority of what is being thrown our way are spirit-type products, which are all relatively new. The beer producers have long had zero alcohol products available, and some are not only tasty, but they come very close in flavor and impression compared to the ‘real thing’. Wine producers however have been asleep at the wheel. There have always been some ‘de-alcoholized’ wines around, Sutter Home Fré being the most successful and available. However—and all due respect to our friends at Trinchero—they don’t completely fulfill the desired impact/impression that their ‘regular’ wines do. We’re under the impression that it’s not as easy with wine, technically speaking, which makes sense. Think about it: spirits are essentially contrived/manufactured products, whereas wine is in essence squished grapes with a few touches from winemakers. So hard to recreate what nature gives us with man-made wine. However, we have full faith and confidence that our very capable winery partners will get it figured out. Indeed, none other than the Trinchero folks have just released a brand called Luminara, which is sorta like Fré 2.0: a much-improved, premium entrant to the category, with weight and flavor impact that is surprisingly close to full octane wine. In our opinion, it is a game changer in the no alcohol wine category. As is usually the case, their competitors will try to replicate it, so were assuming we will have a bunch more equally good options headed our way in the near future.
Nothing stays the same!