اخبار العرب-كندا 24: السبت 25 مارس 2023 05:05 مساءً
The rising demand for alcohol-free beverages is pushing B.C. bars to up their mocktail game to offer consumers better options.
"We're getting to the point where any bar worth its salt will be taking non-alcoholic cocktails, beer, wine, seriously," said Vancouver sommelier Shiva Reddy.
Globally, the alcohol-free market surpassed 11 billion US in 2022. In Western Canada, that translates to a 20 per cent growth in market share, according to Mark Kuspira, the owner of Canadian drinks distributor Crush Imports.
The growth is mostly driven by millennial and Gen Z consumers who are moderating their alcohol intake for physical and mental health reasons.
The trend has been further reinforced with the release of Canada's Guidance on Alcohol and Health, which updates the 2011 Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines that point out that no amount of alcohol is safe and that consuming any more than two drinks a week is risky.
Reddy says this has forced an attitude shift in hospitality, from alcohol-free drinks as an afterthought to curating them with as much thought as alcoholic options.
That's exactly what one Victoria restaurant is doing.
Clayton Thornber, the general manager of Wind Cries Mary in Victoria, says the bar updated its alcohol-free cocktail list in late March to reflect the fact that a growing number of customers wanted more from a mocktail than juice, soda and syrup.
Wind Cries Mary offers 10 house cocktails, eight of them available without alcohol. There is also a dedicated non-alcoholic cocktail menu made with alcohol-free spirits. And Thornber says the time and effort are paying off.
"We keep seeing the popularity grow and grow."
And it isn't just the world of cocktails that's changing. The quality of dealcoholized wine has improved dramatically over the last two years, says Sarah Tejuco, the co-owner of Vancouver-based non-alcoholic importer Sansorium.
She says her customers want to moderate or even give up alcohol altogether for their health, but after years of consuming wine and cocktails, they also want to maintain the social ritual of drinking with friends in bars, and they expect the same taste and quality from booze-free drinks, forcing the industry to react.
Kuspira compares the shift to the expansion of vegetarian and vegan menu options over the last decade.
He expanded his own business in 2021, launching a subsidiary called Soft Crush to supply alcohol-free wines and spirits to bars and resellers.
The next step, according to Kuspira, is for bigger industry players to join the alcohol-free market.
While wine and beer producers have been quick to put out dealcoholized versions of popular products, big brand spirits producers are still catching up.
"I don't think it's a trend. It's something that's here to stay … I think we're just going to see a continual increase in options for everyone that goes to restaurants," he said.
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