Everything in moderation: why your low and no list needs to hit the mark this Christmas
Every year, over five million people jump on the wagon for Dry January. But for many, avoiding alcohol now extends far beyond a one-month charity tribute. From designated drivers, to pregnant women, to paid-up teetotallers; on average, 1 in 4 people who visit your venue this Christmas will be avoiding or moderating their alcohol intake. So, in the run-up to Christmas, one question prevails. What are you offering people to drink when they're not drinking?
Increasing calorie-consciousness and more adventurous palates means that the sugary soft drinks of old no longer make the cut. But a vast array of new and exciting products has hit the market...
We caught up with three producers who are blazing the low-and-no trail, with a range of products that will tick all the boxes for the more sophisticated non-drinker this Christmas - as well as tasting delicious.
Kombucha's popularity in the UK has sharply risen in recent years, as consumers search for healthier drink options. A fermented, lightly fizzy and slightly sour drink, it's made from sweetened tea, and is claimed to be rich in antioxidants.
What's so big about the booch?
It's all about options, according to David Begg, founder of Real Kombucha. "The modern, conscious consumer is willing to spend money on a night out," he says, "but they're more likely to spend that money in a place that caters to their needs." And those needs have changed dramatically in recent years.
Recognising their market for more health-conscious revellers has led to unrivalled success for Real Kombucha, who now boast listings at over 60 Michelin-starred establishments. As David says, with some very well-deserved pride, "The amount of people that are telling us we've changed the way they drink, by offering them a genuine, healthy, adult-orientated alternative to alcohol is quite humbling."
The lowdown on the range
Each of the Real Kombucha offerings has been tailored to pair with food, a rare thing for non-alcoholic drinks. David claims the Dry Dragon is "an exquisite alternative to Sauvignon Blanc, something that pairs beautifully with fish, green salads, Asian dishes." Meanwhile, the Smoke House provides a more full-bodied option to match with dark meats, chocolate and hard cheese. Rounding out the range, the Royal Flush is a non-alcoholic alternative to fizz, as David puts it, "a fabulous celebration drink that really hits the mark for non-drinkers at Christmas."
The no-ABV friend you always wanted
"The festive season brings more people to the pub, but consumer habits don't change," says Charlie Crawley, co-founder of Freestar Beer. "The challenge for the trade is to provide quality alcohol-free options that meet consumer expectations and help make them feel included in social situations."
Freestar live by the mantra that choosing not to drink doesn't mean choosing to compromise. As Charlie explains, "15% of people say they would visit pubs more often if there were better non-alcoholic drink options available."
It's just beer with the alcohol taken out, right?
Non-alcoholic beer isn't new - so what is it that sets Freestar apart? In short, the innovative process behind making it. No yeasts are used in production, ensuring that the final product is - and has always been - 100% alcohol free, despite being a full-flavoured beer.
The craft beer movement has seen astounding success, so the fact Freestar has a unique brewing story is a huge tick for consumers. But it doesn't stop there. Every bottle of Freestar is entirely gluten free, vegan friendly, made of natural ingredients with no added sugar, and contains just 62 calories. It's hard to think of a product more in line with current trends - and it's sure to be a success this Christmas, with non-alcoholic beer standing as the fastest-growing no-ABV category in the market.
What's a shrub, anyway?
Despite the name, nothing to do with botany. Often mixed with carbonated water or tonic, a shrub is a sweetened, vinegar-based syrup infused with fruit juice, herbs and spices.
The term 'drinking vinegar' may not sound particularly palatable - but look closer, and you'll find this is a product with heaps of provenance, regionality and history. As Matilda Temperley, daughter of Somerset Shrubs' founders says, "Somerset Shrubs was developed to meet a growing demand for sophisticated, non-alcoholic drinks with provenance." Key here is the regionality behind the concept; a factor that ticks all the boxes of sustainably-minded consumers looking to 'shop local'. "Somerset Shrubs comes from the orchards of Somerset," she continues. "Cider vinegar, fresh pressed raspberries and pure Somerset honey are the only ingredients."
Not only that, but Matilda's keen to emphasise the potential health benefits behind Somerset Shrubs, too - a distinguishing factor for the product, in a market saturated by sugary offerings. "For centuries, cider vinegar and honey have been drunk as a health tonic," she says. "So it tastes delicious as well as being good for you."