Non-alcoholic market is at an “inflection point,” Ritual Zero Proof CEO discusses growth

By Ryan Daily

- Last updated on GMT

Image Credit: Ritual Zero Proof
Image Credit: Ritual Zero Proof

Related tags non-alcoholic spirits non-alcoholic drinks beverage trends

Non-alcoholic spirit brand Ritual Zero Proof is tapping into the demand for more artisanal and craft mocktails with the release of its aperitif, as the overall market sees new growth from health-conscious and younger consumers, brand CEO and founder Marcus Sakey told FoodNavigator-USA.

While Dry January remains a big month for non-alcoholic brands, Ritual Zero Proof found that February and March sales "eclipsed January" for the first time this year, Sakey said. "January was a record month for us until February until March, which ... really supports the notion that we're at an inflection point of changing consumer behaviors,​" he added.

Moving beyond Dry January, expanding the portfolio

Consumers are coming to the non-alcoholic category for many reasons, including to reduce sugar and alcohol while they’re drinking or because they are giving up alcohol like in the case of many Gen Z consumers, Sakey explained.

The non-alcoholic space is exploding. No and low [alcohol] last year was an $11 billion business. And since then, this year, non-alcoholic spirits as a whole, just according to Nielsen, are up 100% year-over-year, and Rituals is up 177% year-over-year. Part of that is because we've been very careful in rolling out new products. I wanted to make sure that the formulas, the recipes, were perfect.​”

And the job of Ritual Zero Proof is to provide an inclusive option, which allows consumers to change how they’re drinking to fit their lifestyle. "It's how ever you want to use it; it's fully inclusive. It's not about telling people they can't have spirits; it's about saying you can have a drink any way that you like,​” he added.

In addition to its non-alcoholic whiskey, rum, tequila, and gin, the company released Ritual Zero Proof Aperitif Alternative,​ which is rolling out now, Sakey said. The non-alcoholic aperitif contains all-natural botanicals with citrus and spice notes and can be used to "elevate a non-alc cocktail to a higher level of mixology than has been available,​" he added. 

“Our aperitif is the spirit of summer; it works with anything with bubbles. It's a beautiful, lively drink, ... and it works in elaborate, complicated cocktails, including those that have alcohol. You can use it in place of traditional aperitif or ... Aperol, and you cut your sugar, and you cut your alcohol quite a lot, and you still have a cocktail the way you want.” 

Expanding distribution, using on-premises for discovery

Ritual Zero Proof is driving brand discovery at bars and restaurants and expanding into channels that aren't normally associated with non-alcoholic spirits, Sakey said.

What we're really looking at is growing awareness overall and serving the needs of consumers everywhere across the US. So that is expanding distribution and footprint. It's also really moving more heavily into on-premise. We've had enormous success there. But on-premise, I feel like it's only now really re-finding its space in a post-COVID world, and with that, you're seeing that the health consciousness that grew in that time is being reflected on the menus.​”

And some of the expanded distribution is coming from channels that aren’t normally associated with the non-alcoholic space, Sakey noted. For instance, Ritual Zero Proof is currently being tested at 300 CVS locations, and its “finding that it's actually moving better than spirits in a lot of those locations,​” he added.

When I look at what's next, it's this growing from what was a novelty a few years ago to a point where it is right now where people who are interested in food and health are aware of it into what's next, which is it's simply no everyone knows what almond milk is. Everyone knows what the Impossible Burger is, and I think that's where Ritual and non-alc spirits are heading.​”

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