Snaxshot #50: New Alt-Brewskis on the Block
taming of the brew
A newsletter on upcoming food and beverage trends that offers a curation of brands and aesthetics written by Andrea Hernández.
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🔮 Peek into the future:
What’s in a drink and sober curiosity revisited
Taming of the brew and beer’s ongoing decline
The Big NoBrewskis and the New Alt-Brewskis on the Block
Curation of new products and spoonful of news
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What’s In A Drink?
Today is a special day, Snaxshot is publishing its 50th issue —almost 2 years ago, we threw a question into the void “What’s in a drink?” to unpack the rise in sober curiosity, and wow, how things have exploded since. We’re close approaching 23,000 subscribers from every corner of the world, from across industries and snaxers of all kinds, we’ve hosted 12 events across 4 different cities to bring our community together, all in exploration of what it means to snax in this new era.
As a tribute, and in classic SXS nostalgia, it was only appropriate to bring it back to where it all started, the fact that our generation is looking to drink less, where that stems from and why it’s now permeating across categories. Today we unpack the rise of the alt-brewskis, from BigBeer to emerging brands who are quickly capturing market share from beverage giants, come cheer along as we go behind what’s working, what’s not, and meet the new kids on the block.
If you do recall our first issue, we noted that sober drinks have always existed, soda seltzers and mocktails aren’t really a novelty —however note, that it felt like choosing between two ends of a spectrum. You could choose between a plain seltzer, maybe if you have the knowledge and bravery to ask for a splash of bitters without getting eye rolls from a bartender or get infantilized by the colorful, overly sweet options that placed you back to being a 17 year old with a rejected fake ID at Applebees, virgin daiquiris and such.
Back in 2020 we asked, “What’s in a drink, that consumed in any other way would taste just the same?” —the answer is marketing, I now refer to this as “vibe market fit” how does a product positioning itself as offering the same, inclusive sentiment, as what it's seeking to replace? The best example of this to date is Liquid Death, we talk more in depth about their genius here and here, their branding that feels and looks like a tallboy, that can be consumed at any biker hangout or college tailgating without sticking out like a sore thumb, is perfection. I dare say the cult of Liquid Death has achieved the same entrenched messaging as BigBeer, in less than a decade, you know you achieved “vibe market fit” when people are tattooing their logo unto their skin, voluntarily.
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The success of NA came basically from meeting an underserved market, the interest in NA is not novel, but in fact has been growing amongst GenZ and Millennials particularly post pandemic as health becomes priority, not to mention how much wearables influence our food and beverage decisions now, see our past issue deep diving into this. The key difference here has been that NA options have been able to advertise themselves with the same sex appeal that alcohol has long held, consider that “happy hour” literally refers to dosing one self with a depressant —the alchemy of marketing! From beverage brands like Ghia, that beautifully emulate the mediterranean from their product shots, to curated streams of posts —though you’re not having an aperol spritz, their NA spritzes emulate the same sentiment, fucking genius. NA brands are also permeating the industry by partnering with bartenders, sommeliers, restaurants and bars alike, to further educated consumers on how to use their products, take Three Spirits and Acid League for example, both leading the movement in North America.
Lest about living in extremes (see our deep dive into “functional unwinding”) —the key here is in regaining a sense of balance. In the same way that “alt-protein” brands like Beyond Meat seek not to appeal to the already vegan, but more so what they call a “flexitarian” someone who is looking to reduce consumption, but necessarily replace entirely, the “alt-brewskis” are positioning themselves similarly, and in a way, reminds one of “cigarette patches” like helping you slowly wane of an addiction, and for the longest time, particularly in US, alcohol has held the reigns of socializing tightly. These emerging NA beer brands, are helping us reimagine what a “good time” and “socializing” look like, in the same context, just removing the alcohol aspect —and there’s money to be made from nailing this intersection, let’s look at the numbers.
Taming of the Brew
—According to IWSR, in 2018, sales of a case of beer declined 1.5%, have been declining in the US declined by 2.4% every year, for the past 5 years.
—Not so popular— Bud Light (most popular beer in U.S) saw its sales drop 17% between 2012 and 2017, falling to $14.5 billion, according to Euromonitor International.
—Coors Lite, Miller Lite and Budweiser have also been losing market share, a trend that has continued according to IRI data.
2021 vs. 2020
U.S. beer volume sales were up 1% in 2021,
Craft brewer volume sales grew 8% raising small and independent brewers' share of the U.S. beer market by volume to 13.1%.
All Brews, That Sip Well
—The current NA beer market is valued at a total of $20B as of 2022.
—NA beer market is expanding at a 7.8% CAGR, at projected to total $44B by the end of the decade.
—NA beer took a 0.51 share of the beer market in 2021 — a gain from a 0.31 share in 2018.
For more on NA beer labeling, check out this informational breakdown.
—NA beer segment saw $ sales increase 24% in 2021 according to Information Resources Inc. (IRI).
—IWSR Drinks Market Analysis reported that the global beverage alcohol market saw a 6% increase in the volume of the no- and low-alcohol categories (beer, cider, wine, spirits and ready-to-drink) in 10 key global focus markets in 2021.
—A sign of the times? There's now a trade association devoted to non-alcoholic beer, spirits and other drinks, see Adult Non-Alcoholic Beverage Association.
—Driving forces behind the rise of sober curiosity? Wellness, particularly post pandemic.
61% of Americans say physical and mental wellness will become more of a priority this year according to NielsenIQ’s recent 2022 Consumer Outlook report.
—A tale of two brews? Budweiser brewer AB InBev is "off track" in reaching its goal of making 20% of its beer volume NA and low abv by 2025, according to BigBeer, NA beer is less popular than expected, though it has not given up on NA as this range lead to revenue growth in Q1 of 2022.
The Big NoBrewskis
Emerging players have cornered interested in this intersection, American based Athletic Brewing, becoming the leader of this category, with brands like Partake and BigDrop trailing behind. (Canada and UK)
Leader of the non-alcoholic beer category, Athletic Brewing has broken into top sales of NA amongst BigBeer brands (See above chart) Launched in 2017 in Stratford, CT —the brand has had a booming demand, selling out constantly during their first few years, since then they have garnered international attention, are available in multiple countries, from UK, Canada to Australia, and have won multiple awards in both national and international competitions. Their beers are produced in West/East coasts as their breweries are found both in Stratford and San Diego, and they have most recently released a line of hop-infused sparkling waters.
Athletic Brewing has earned its title as leader in this category, and recently raised a $50 M round in series C to further expand its NA beer empire.
Canadian based Partake, was founded in 2017 by Ted Fleming, a former engineer whose Crohn's diagnosis led him to give up alcohol, which ultimately inspired him to brew his own NA beer considering lack of options and judgement when it came to taste. He created Partake to give consumers great-tasting NA beers suitable for any occasion or location.
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The NA beer category has been expanding in the past 5 years with entering brands positioning themselves differently —from the sports friendly, to the mindful and functional ones, each one seeking to differentiate itself from the other, even though ironically many are all emulating the same look and feel. However, there’s a set of new alt-brewskis recently entering the market, their “vibe market fit” is less focused on emulating BigBeer, instead drawing in from lifestyle and social settings that one tends to grab a drink in the first place. Enter Chicago based Visitor —a crisp, clean, lightly hopped non-alcoholic beer, that is also gluten-reduce. Having launched recently, in what seems to be the new MUST way for digital native brands, simultaneously DTC and retail, they are available in physical Foxtrot Market stores.
What’s special about Visitor is not just their minimal look, at first glance, you may be under the impression that it’s just a sample, not the final product, which is a beautiful way to convey the sentiment of being at a brewery, and getting to sample a fresh new batch, pairing perfectly with its name visitor. “Hang without the sacrifice” the brand preaches, and the word hang is not used lightly, everything about their look and even how their store is curated, beyond merch, you find items that give a sense of perusing through a cool neighborhood store, from vintage print magazines to ceramic cups, there’s coherence of “vibes” —regardless of the items, it gives a sense of familiarity, and what if not, is the main goal of these NA beers in the first place, to provide belonging, as opposed to alienating one for choosing to opt out of traditional beer. Home, a wonderful juxtaposition to Visitor.
Founded by the creative geniuses of David Gallagher, Chris Bain and Rob Jensen, Visitor represents a new kind of NA beer, one that emulates more of the genius that brands like Ghia have been able to pull off, by immersing you into their brand universe, whether its that of the Mediterranean, or in Visitor’s case, your local neighborhood, cheering with it at a park on a date, sipping after a game of hoops with old friends, their gravitational pull beyond beer culture, is a mix of old, with the renewed, in a culture where we have been taught excess, how can they inspire balance, a welcomed culture shock, because, after all, we are all visitors.
Cheers to NA Beers
Hands down my favorite NA beer based in Canada, the product is equal parts beautiful and beyond tasty, our snax community got to sample some at our LA event back in March!
Other Canadian NA to check out:
From the genius of Monceau, comes this very retro-ish, picnic inspired NA beer, by far my favorite based in Australia.
Other Australian NA to check out:
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Included here as my favorite NA beer from UK because of how its different from your usual BigBeer vibe!
Other UK NA to check out:
A brand that needs no introduction, but signals a growth of this segment by launching their own NA beer versions.
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Spoonful of News 🥄
In line with our predictions last year, FOH debuts their restaurant NFT marketplace with Dame and Wildair.
Fungi protein will be put to test as space food on SpaceX next cargo launch to space station.
Beyond Meat is facing lawsuits re: claims and another reminder, this is just the beginning of these kinds of suits brought against the alts.
Perfect Day x Strive to collaborate on alt-milks, not like we need more.
After Coca Cola announced Honest Tea sunset, Seth Goldman seeks to create a new RTD tea, but I have to ask, why, LOL.
In related news, Molson Coors is spending $65M to bring more hard seltzer packaging in-house.
Snax Concierge 🛎️
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