B&B Perspective: What does the future hold for Alcohol Free?06/06/22
While the alcohol industry is understandably embracing sober curious consumers, there’s an argument to be made that the future of zero proof will have zero connection to alcohol at all…
Since Seedlip launched as a premium alcohol alternative seven years ago, the concept of moderation has become increasingly mainstream, and the AF category has boomed. Wary of narrowing their appeal (to both consumers and investors), brands have marketed themselves as ‘moderation enablers’, providing an alternative to alcohol for established drinkers looking to cut back.
In today’s climate this makes perfect sense. But marketing a product around what it isn’t smacks of short-termism, and the ‘what to drink when you’re not drinking’ mantra seems likely to lose resonance for next generation drinkers with vastly different cultural norms.
For Generation Alpha, who will come of age within the next decade, alcohol will be just one of a range of ingredients available to deliver a hit, as CBD, nootropics, amino acids and adaptogens all join the party. With alcohol-free drinks able to offer brain-stimulating effects, the accepted definition of drinking or not drinking will become increasingly indistinct.
We’re already seeing emerging start-up brands step away from the cues and codes of the alcohol sector to market their future-focused beverages. Commonalities include a focus on sociable brand worlds, Tik-Tok-friendly design, sustainable product formats and natural, plant-based ingredients – clearly emphasising what is in it, rather than what isn’t.
The first legal psychedelic brand of its kind promises a mild psychoactive experience, enabling consumers to loosen up, stimulate their senses and expand their creativity. Minimal can design suggests clean, all-natural ingredients, while the chromatic finish hints at a mind-altering and future-focused feel.
Shaped by the founder’s desire to understand what the future of drinking would look like, Bonbuz is powered by amino acids, adaptogens and nootropics selected to deliver the same potent hit as an alcoholic spirit, including 5-HTP – a substance that stimulates the production of the happy hormone serotonin in the brain. Structurally, the design borrows spirits codes to signal product usage, however graphic language reinforces the buzzy nature of the name, using illustration to emphasise effect in a way that’s off limits to alcohol brands.
Created to help focus your thoughts, UK-based Peak is enhanced with nootropics that target the mind. With variants aiming to provide either mental clarity or mindful calm, the range acts as a daily assist, crossing the work and play divide. Design highlights community and sociability, featuring illustration of an aspirational group of wellbeing advocates, interspersed with leaves and flowers.
Positioning itself as ‘the future of feeling’, Confidence Drink concentrates solely on delivering mental confidence – vital, the brand believes, to living a full life. Inspired the modern-day tendency to overthink and not be present in the moment, the drink promises ‘the mental freedom needed to thrive and combines stress-busting ingredients like 5-HTP, adaptogenic rhodiola, amino acids and a vitamin B complex. Design cues are functional and minimalistic, with a brand world that gives a sense of futuristic nostalgia in combination with sociable modern lifestyle photography.
Moving beyond no and low
Alcohol will always have its place, but as next generation drinks continue to develop in line with new expectations and desires, the whole concept of ‘alcohol alternatives’ or ‘alcohol free’ could arguably become a thing of the past for the up-and-coming drinkers of tomorrow.
Maybe now’s the time for alcohol-free brands to move away from communicating what they’re lacking, and rather focus on everything they do bring to the party. When the product and brand deliver, the idea of ‘not drinking’ doesn’t need to factor at all.
Lisa Desforges is Head of Strategy at B&B studio.