Once a category no self respecting hospitality professional would touch with a ten foot pole, nonalcoholic wine is now experiencing a transformation. Fueled by anti-alcohol health sentiment among Gen Z, as well as convenience, occasion, and improved taste and quality, consumers are rapidly embracing the category. The reasons ranging from pregnancy, sobriety, and health concerns to just wanting variety, experts say.
“The relationship that people have with what alcohol gives them is slightly changing as we think a little bit more about what we put in our bodies,” said Nick Bodkins, founder and CEO of Boisson, a major nonalcoholic drinks company founded only two years ago. “And these products that we sell – the brands that are coming to market – are actually looking to elevate the whole category.”
While nonalcoholic beer and spirits far outstrip NA (nonalcoholic) wine sales, the NA wine sector is growing quickly. NA wines are appearing on menus at two and three Michelin star restaurants. The entry of NA wines like French Bloom (a sparkling wine brand from a member of the Taittinger family) on the market give tis category more credibility. Plus, sommelier and hospitality professionals are supporting the movement.
Most convincing of all, Bodkins said, is data from restaurants is showing a 17 percent increase in average ticket increase when NA wines are on the menu.
In 2022, Boisson raised a $12 million seed funding round, to supercharge its growth as a bricks and mortar retailer where consumers can taste and try. It’s also a wholesaler with 500 accounts and an online ecommerce store with 200,000 customers, Bodkins said.
Due to the nonalcoholic nature of its business, it is not required to deal with the cumbersome inconveniences of the three tier system.
Motivations for NA wine drinking are varied, and consumers often combine it with drinking regular wine, Bodkins said.
“If I have to drive home, or if I have a busy day tomorrow, if you have no NA options for me on the menu, I’ll have my one drink at the beginning of dinner. And that’s it,” he said. “If you have NA wines on the menu, I’m going to keep drinking. And I’m happy to keep giving you the money because the ritual of having a glass and enjoying that with friends or whomever it is that I’m having dinner with.”
That “customer first” experience in dining out is also critical, he said.
“What you’re really paying for is the ritual. You’re paying to meet the friend and hear how their day went. You’re catching up with somebody haven’t seen in a while. You’re meeting a loved one. Whatever it is, the ritual of getting together out in public is something that I think people desperately missed,” he said.
The NA wine trend is taking off at Boisson’s locations in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco, and, albeit to a smaller extent, in other cities. Uber chic upscale establishments like the Ritz in Paris and the Beverly Hills Hotel offer NA wines for the super elite. At Chicago’s Gilt Bar, an upscale neighborhood’s traditional cocktail bar, staff found that its sole NA wine offering, a Sauvignon Blanc, began outselling rosé on the wine by the glass menu.
Jim Bube MS is the wine director at Hogsalt, the 20+ restaurant chain headquartered in Chicago, that owns Gilt Bar. “We did a trial for a nonalcoholic Sauvignon Blanc in one of our venues, and I was floored at how much we were selling,” he said. “So that’s something that is probably going to make an appearance in a few of our other venues. That was really not entirely surprising, but exciting to see.”
If you’re a restauranteur or bar owner, nonalcoholic wine might seem like an oxymoron. However, if you add it to your menu, you could find yourself pleasantly surprised – you’ll likely be making a lot of customers happy, and bring in a few new ones, all while increasing profits!