Booze-Free Alcohol is What’s Next in Beverages
by Theresa Christine Johnson on 03/29/2018 | 4 Minute Read
“Expect to hear more about the non-alcoholic spirits industry in coming years!”If you had to reread that sentence, make no mistake: sales of non-alcoholic spirits (along with other low- or no-alcohol beverages of their type) from AB InBev are reported to double by 2025. And while heading to the bar to grab a stiff drink sans alcohol might not sound that enjoyable, Hamish Campbell, Creative Director of Pearlfisher New York, would disagree. After all, just take a look at Seedlip.Pearlfisher designed this distilled non-alcoholic spirit, and it isn’t just gin without the kick. Sure, it looks like something you’d throw into a traditional cocktail—it has a classic spirits bottle shape, an artful illustration on the label, and it definitely doesn’t feature a big sticker that says “No Alcohol.” But this beverage is its own entity, its own unique experience from what you might usually order at a bar.Seedlip won a Dieline Award in 2016, and since then we’ve noticed some other equally notable low- and no-alcohol designs. We recently saw jones knowles ritchie design Bud Prohibition, a booze-free brew that pays tribute to Budweiser’s history during American Prohibition. There’s also Rocktails, a citrus-infused sparkling beverage inspired by botanicals that B&B Studio designed.
More and more designers will see these types of projects coming to their desks, but why is there a growing demand for them from consumers?“I think there’s obviously a much larger health trend that’s been going for a number of years,” explained Hamish. “We’ve seen it in the food industry, and brands were, in turn, reacting to that.”In 2016, Americans consumed less alcohol than the year before—the first time that number has dropped since 2011. According to the world’s largest distiller, Diageo, alcohol consumption in the developed world has been on decline for decades. But it’s particularly driven by those who drink wanting quality over quantity. More than any generation before, young people are more health conscious about the ingredients which go into what they consume, and they’re willing to pay for it.
Of course, designing for this category of finely crafted alcohol-free spirits is just as challenging as it is exciting. “Historically, beer has always been the one doing non-alcoholic versions,” said Hamish, “but people sometimes still view it as subpar. They have it because they’re the designated driver, not because they really want it.”But something like Seedlip? This is not a drink you settle for—it’s one you actually can’t wait to try.For this project, Hamish said they followed some of the set design codes established in the liquor space. “We had to play those games,” he confessed. But when it came to the actual design, they didn’t highlight the non-alcoholic aspect; instead, they highlighted the experience.“The key thing," he said, "is that you almost don’t talk about the drink having no alcohol. You talk about a more interesting experience or story.“The success of Seeplip is that it’s got interesting flavors—it’s about nature and the ingredients. It’s got a much deeper experience, and that’s exactly what consumers are looking for.”
Seedlip combines six individually distilled barks, spices, and citrus peels for a delightfully refreshing flavor. It’s incredibly nature-focused, and Pearlfisher brought the botanical element to the forefront of the design. On the label, you see a profile of a fox created with a combination of leaves, bark, and flowers—it’s subtle and intriguing. It makes the consumer want to try it for the one-of-a-kind flavor rather than just drink it as a backup when having a cocktail isn’t an option.Hamish sees an opportunity for designers to help grow the category. “There are a lot of different ways it can go,” he mentioned. “There is the location or historic-stories aspect, just as you might associate rum with pirates or sea monsters. Using botanicals is huge, and this is a big driver. And I can also see designers leveraging that deeper connection to what’s in nature and the environment.”Additionally, he believes the geo-location of flavors will entice more and more people to try these types of drinks. Just as consumers go crazy for Tuscan wines or relish Japanese whiskey, a new beverage of this kind from Norway will taste totally different from one crafted in the Hudson Valley.
“I also think it will go beyond drinks,” Hamish predicted. He mentioned there are already “no drinking festivals” (like the Mindful Drinking Festival in the UK), and that we can certainly expect to see mixologists creating exceptional, non-alcoholic cocktails to further drive sales. Maybe we’ll even see bars that are all about low-alcohol drinking, where he said people would go more for the actual space and social aspect rather than just drinking.“What it comes down to is that what they’re looking for is experiences,” Hamish emphasized, “versus just the products alone.”