Maybe you’ve already seen them.
You head to the supermarket and there they are, sitting right alongside the regular wines. Or perhaps you went for a meal at a trendy restaurant only to find one right there on the menu.
We’re talking about alcohol-free Italian wine and you may be surprised to find that this is a trend that’s starting to catch on.
According to an article on Forbes, non-alcoholic beers and wines represent 0.5% of the market. That number goes up to 1.3% in the UK. That might not seem like much at first.
But consider this.
The alcohol industry on the US sold over $253 billion of product in 2019.
0.5% of that still represents $12.65 billion.
That’s a sizeable chunk by any stretch of the imagination. Alcohol-free wines and beers are already a multibillion-dollar industry.
But are they the future? Are we going to find them slowly overtaking traditional alcohols as the years go by?
To figure that out, we need to see why they’re selling in such high volumes in the first place.
We can think of a few reasons.
Why Go Non-Alcoholic?
Let us set the scene.
You’ve just come back from a hard day at work. You’re feeling stressed out and you want nothing more than to drink a glass of wine to lower your stress levels.
But you can’t have a drink just yet. You’ve got to take the kids to soccer practice and you’ll have to pick them up again later. Getting behind the wheel after having a drink simply isn’t an option.
However, you still can’t help but crave a tasty wine or beer that will chill you out.
And now you’ve just experienced one of the reasons why non-alcoholic beverages are on the rise. They’re simply ideal for those times when you know that you can’t drink but you feel like you need a drink.
There’s also the taste issue.
Many of us love the taste of a good Italian wine. And if that’s not your thing, you may like a cold and frosty beer after work.
Again, those pesky responsibilities may get in the way of you enjoying that sweet taste.
Non-alcoholic alternatives provide a solution. You get to enjoy the taste that you’re craving without raising your blood alcohol levels.
We also have the fact that the younger generations, particularly millennials, are drinking less than the generations that came before them.
There are all sorts of reasons why this may be.
Ironically, the binge drinking cultures in countries like England may actually led to people drinking less. Some people may have a blowout once per month but not drink anything at all during the rest of the month.
But let’s come back to the point.
The current generation drinks less than the one that came before. And to that age group, non-alcoholic wines may seem like a good idea. After all, the idea is that they get all of the taste and refinement of the beverage without the alcoholic content.
But it’s not really as simple as that…
No Alcohol Means The Wine Cannot Taste the Same
The simple fact of the matter is that a wine’s alcohol content is a big part of its taste. It’s for this exact reason that the DOC has rules in place to govern the wines that get its approval.
Changing the alcohol content, be it raising it or lowering it, alters the entire complexion of the wine.
And for the traditionalists out there, that’s simply something that won’t do.
They likely see no-alcoholic wines as poor simulations of the real thing. And why drink a copy when the real thing is so readily available.
The “being responsible” argument also only seems to work so long as you have a craving for an alcoholic drink. If you’re being responsible, there’s no reason why you can’t have a glass of water or a soft drink, after all. Are people really going to spend a little bit extra to get a simulation of an alcoholic beverage?
The stats suggest that they will…up to a point. As we said before, $12 billion in sales is nothing to be sniffed at, even when taken into the context of a $253 billion industry.
So, we come back to our original question…
Is Non-Alcoholic The Way of the Future?
We don’t feel like we’re going out on a limb by saying no.
Non-alcoholic wines will never overtake the drinks that inspired them. We can look to non-alcoholic beer to show us that. While there’s certainly a market for the product, non-alcoholic beers have existed for decades and have yet to put a noticeable dent in regular beer sales.
Having said that, we do believe that there’s room for growth in the non-alcoholic wine sector. There’s certainly a trend at play here and a lot of younger people want to enjoy wines without worrying about the alcohol content. We think that most suppliers will carry at least a couple of examples of non-alcoholic wines before too long.
We just believe that they will always straddle that fine line between novelty and legitimate product. The majority who try them will likely only do so out of curiosity before going back to their regular wines.
There’s Room For All
That’s the simple message that we have.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with producers experimenting with non-alcoholic wines. However, from what we’ve sampled we’d say there’s a long way to go until these products can actually emulate their alcoholic compatriots.
We just believe that this is a small addition to the larger industry, rather than a trend that’s going to take over from traditional production.
There’s room or non-alcoholic wines in the market, just as there’s room for non-alcoholic beers. Just don’t expect them to become the standard in an industry that generates billions per year already.