Natural Products Expo West

Expo West trends: Non-alcoholic category keeps it refreshing with hop-infused beverages

By Ryan Daily

- Last updated on GMT

Image Credit: Ryan Daily
Image Credit: Ryan Daily

Related tags non-alcoholic non-alcoholic beer Natural products expo Expo west

Non-alcoholic beverages were on full display at Natural Products Expo West 2024 last week, as hop-heavy brands like Hoplark, H2OPS, and Lagunitas shared how they are tapping into consumer demands for bold and interesting flavors.

The non-alcoholic (NA) market was worth $13bn in 2023 and continues to see growth and adoption from consumers of all ages, according to data from beverage alcohol data company IWSR​. The no- and low-alcohol category is expected to grow by a 6% CAGR between 2023 and 2027, slightly down from the 8% volume CAGR that the category experienced from 2019-2023. 

The NA “explosion of innovation” comes from shifting consumer drinking habits, including younger consumers drinking less alcohol, and consumers of all ages looking for bespoke and unique beverages, Betsy Frost, CEO of Hoplark, told FoodNavigator-USA during a booth interview at Expo West. 

“You're seeing [non-alc] grow for two different reasons. It is growing with a new generation, and you're looking at people who are drinkers looking for something bold [and] complex that ... gives you a dopamine kick because you're doing something interesting and curious,” Frost explained. 

She added, “You see in NA a few different things in the category, everything from companies coming out and trying to emulate alcohol or beer or wine, [and] ... the other [brands] that aren't exactly a vodka alternative or a beer alternative, but it's trying to find ways to use flavors and different ingredients in a way that delivers against that complexity.” 

Hoplark tees up a rebrand, releases new flavors of hop water 

At its Expo West booth, Hoplark showcased​ its new product branding, including a new logo, and two new flavors of its sparkling hop water, Vanilla Bean + Simcoe Hops and Lemongrass + Lemondrop Hops, Frost said. Hoplark also shared samples across its portfolio of flavors and products, which includes its HopTea, Hoplark 0.0, sparkling water, and limited-edition products.   

While hop flavors are typically associated with beer, brands like Hoplark have been able to brew hops in a variety of NA beverages, and “can be used to deliver different expressions” from sour to citrusy to sweet flavors, Frost explained. 

“We think of hop as a miracle ingredient. Beer held it hostage for the last 5,000 years. ... Way before it was an ingredient in beer, it was used in holistic medicine and a lot of different things. Pulling it out of beer is hard; it’s tricky. It can have raspy notes. It can get very acidic or bitter. And so, finding a way to do that is really what has unlocked Hoplark. We really brew the real ingredients. We've worked with over three dozen varietals across 150 different limited releases to figure out what works.” 

When it comes to finding new flavors, Hoplark also leverages its website to provide a direct-to-consumer (DTC) option, which allows the brand to experiment with new flavors and work with consumers to find new flavors, Frost said. Hoplark released a Cream Soda Hoptea for its December limited release and followed it up with a New Zealand IPA in January and a Pink Boots Blend Hops in February — a blend of berry, citrus, and stone fruit flavors to honor Women's Day.

"We use [our DTC channel] to experiment, where we can push barriers. ... It comes from our team of brewers who [say] ‘I always wanted to hop this,’” Frost said. “It comes from their inspiration wanting to create new things for consumers. In fact, our hop sour that we launched in our 0.0 last year, a consumer came up to us at a beer festival [and told us,] 'I dare you to make a hop sour.' We launched it online and got a ton of feedback for it. It kept selling out." 

Other hoppy beverages at Expo West

In addition to Hoplark, other NA beverage brands were showcasing its hoppy hydration solutions at Expo West. Craft brewery Lagunitas shared its line of Hoppy Refreshers, available in a Blood Orange, Berry Lemon, and an unflavored version, and H2OPS sampled its hop waters, including a Grapefruit and original flavor, as part of Expo West’s Mindful Beverage area. 

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