Trend Report 2020: The Rise of Non-Alcoholic Booze

by Bill McCool on 12/18/2019 | 4 Minute Read

2020 is finally here, and it's that time of year where we get to play Nostradamus and tell you where the future of branding and package design is heading. 

This is the second installment in our 9-part Trend Report for 2020; to view the other sections, click on the following hyperlinks to read about Brand Merch', White Claw Summer, Monochromatic Packaging, Patterns, The Plant-Based World, Non-Binary Branding, Flexible Logos, and Material Innovation.


Happy hour. Hump day. Thirsty Thursdays. TGIFs. Bar crawls. Ragers. Bingers. Day drinking. Beer festivals. Beer bus. Wine cruise. Wine trail. Whiskey tasting. 5k beer runs. Rosé all day. Black Wednesday. Wakes. Birthdays. Kids' birthday parties with beer (for the adults, obviously). Hannukah. Christmas. Thanksgiving. Really, any holiday. 

Brunch.

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Alcohol is deeply intertwined with our lives—and we write about it all the time. Not a day goes by where we don’t feature the latest designs in craft beer or spirits. Rosé alone will turn up multiple hits; even Dunkin’ has a canned one.

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But in the last few years, alcohol sales have taken a dip in large part because millennials and Gen Zers are drinking less, while the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that, worldwide, the rate of alcohol drinkers fell by nearly 5%. Non-alcoholic beer sales have also grown an average of 3.9% for the past five years. “Sober life” has given rise to mocktails and early am dance parties just for teetotalers (which, to be honest, raving at 5 am sounds all kinds of awful).

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Now, sure, you could chalk it up as the result of the legalization of cannabis in a few states, but overall, it points to a wellness and self-care trend that’s sweeping the country—and brands are not only buying the next round, but they’re bringing good design.

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This is not just drinking a can of O’douls anymore (though, to be fair, they now have some beautiful LTO designs). There are now upstart breweries like Athletic Brewing that developed an entirely new process of making non-alcoholic beer, one that mimics the real stuff and doesn’t resemble those monstrous-looking near-Heineken ripoffs. 

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Athletic's award-winning drinks are tailor-made to the outdoor kids as their Run Wild IPA depicts a peaceful path through the hills, perfect for the trail runner who wants something that feels like it has some oomph after a ten-mile run. Some breweries like Lagunitas are even releasing Hop Water—and the chemistry behind all of these drinks is pretty compelling, and certifiable proof that teetotalling doesn’t have to be all that sad.

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But it’s non-alcoholic spirits that are really collecting attention. Back in 2015 (talk about prescient), Pearlfisher designed the branding and packaging for Seedlip, and they’ve since followed up this past year with two new offerings in the form of NOgroni, a ready-to-drink mocktail, and Æcorn, a line of non-alcoholic aperitifs. Design Bridge worked on Caleno, a no-booze take on gin distilled with juniper and spice botanicals, that pulls exotic colors from the Colombian founder’s rich culture and heritage.

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Most importantly, none of these beverages would look out of place behind the counter of the bar, whether it’s a hole in the wall or something decidedly high-end.

In design terms, many of these upstart brands are meant to resemble the real thing. Take Stryyk, for instance. Here’s an alternative vodka brand that hews ever-so-close to Absolut made from cucumber, apple, and coriander. All they need is the print ad campaign behind them.

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These are Instagram-ready brands—take a look at the work RoAndCo did for euphoric beverage Kin. High Rhode is a sophisticated and herbaceous mixer while the pop-it-open-and-you’re-good-to-go Spritz gives off a warm glow. Both drinks try to recreate some of the buzz you would otherwise get with alcohol, just with adaptogens and nootropics.

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While some of the beverages you could have at a sober bar might cost an arm and a leg, there are plenty of ready-to-drink mocktails like Highball. Again, here’s another polished, cosmopolitan line of drinks featuring G&Ts, spritzes, and mojitos, all using abstract geometric shapes that deconstruct the cocktail.

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And if you think that global brands aren’t paying attention, you’d be wrong. Earlier in the year, Coca-Cola started testing its line of zero-booze spirits Bar None in Atlanta, and Diageo bought a majority stake in Seedlip (they owned 20% in 2016). Whether it’s super low-ABV beers or something free of alcohol entirely, brands are trying to entice a mindful consumer who doesn’t need to get hammered every weekend.

Looks like dry January just got a little longer, guys.

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