Natural Products Expo East

Non-alcoholic industry shakes off stereotypes, embraces new merchandizing strategies to drive 30% yoy growth

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags expo east non-alcoholic drinks

Once relegated to the bottom shelf in the back corner of a store or hidden among the sparkling water or cocktail mixers, non-alcoholic beer, wine and spirits are breaking free from the stereotypes of who drinks them and when, and in doing so are setting new merchandizing standards and marketing best practices.

In the four and a half years since the non-alcoholic beverage brand Grüvi launched, co-founder Anika Sawni says the industry and people’s perception of the category have changed completely – driven partly by a better understanding of alcohol’s impact on the body, having more and better tasting non-alcoholic alternatives and consumers more openly thinking about their relationship with alcohol.

“Fifty-five percent of Americans are actively trying to reduce their alcohol intake,” and it is not just Gen Z – it is all demographics, Sawni said. “What we have noticed at Grüvi is we have people from 21 all the way up to 75 who are drinking Grüvi and looking to make that transition.

“The way we think about it is a little bit less about the demographic and more about the mindset and the values that these people have in wanting to be more present, wanting to make healthful choices,” and thinking about the future they want and how to get there, she said.

Moving from DTC to in-store

As the consumer base and usage occasion for adult non-alcoholic beverages has expanded, Sawni says industry stakeholders are actively working with retailers to better showcase the diversity of products available and when and how they can fit into consumers lifestyles.

“Four and a half years ago, honestly, the main path [to market] was DTC, and people had to purchase their non-alcoholic beverages online. … We did a lot of research and we understood our customers wanted to buy in store, and so really making it accessible for people” in their local grocery and liquor stores and in the places within those stores where they already shop, she explained.

This means placing the products side-by-side with their alcoholic counterparts and in displays where consumers might want a non-alcoholic option to complement other purchases – like next to snacks if they are tailgating or deli trays if they are hosting a party.

In-store destinations, standalone displays boost awareness, drive velocity

Players from across the non-alcoholic set are working together with retailers to create an instore destination for non-alcoholic options and, when non-alcoholic is placed side-by-side with its alcoholic counterparts, they are testing how in-store signs and shelf tags can help draw consumers’ attention and drive velocities.

When Grüvi began showcasing its beer in a standalone display that talked to consumers about its taste profile, the company saw velocities in store pick up 45% -- illustrating the power of in-store signs and consumer education.

Because the segment is so young, she says it is important for retailers to work alongside brands to test how best to merchandize non-alcoholic options. And while she acknowledges this is extra work, she says it is worth it.

“The category is growing at 30% [year-over-year] and is expected in 2025 to … be a multi-billion dollar industry. And so it is important for retailers to really see the gap that they are missing. There are consumers that are not going to come to your store, if you don’t offer these options. Same with bars and restaurants. People aren’t going to choose your location if you don’t have it,” she said.

But, she added it isn’t enough to offer one or two non-alcoholic options.

“Similar to the plant-based movement, people are making this transition, and if you’re not at the forefront, if you’re not offering a high-quality set, you’re going to lose customers.”

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