Alcoholic beverages have been around for a long time — nearly as long as humans have existed. In fact, one of the oldest examples of an alcoholic drink was found in the Henan province of northern China, reportedly a “mixed fermented beverage of rice, honey, and fruit.” While that sounds similar to a modern home-brewed mead or sake recipe, it’s safe to say our tastes for alcoholic drinks have changed a lot since 7000 BC.
In 2022, customers around the world are embracing bold, adventurous flavors and compositions, as well as dipping their toes into the no- and low-ABV movement. They’re starting to favor portable formats, like cans, and they’re enjoying the benefits of beer, wine, and liquor delivery. Keep reading to dive into the biggest alcohol trends, and get ideas on how to boost your business’s own alcohol delivery sales in 2023.
Low-ABV raises the bar
One of the most exciting and innovative alcohol trends to come about in recent years is the growing popularity of low- or no-ABV drinks. With moderation in mind, many consumers across the globe are embracing no-alcohol and low-alcohol beverages. Non-alcoholic beverage sales increased 33% to $331 million over the last 52 weeks according to Nielsen, and ISWR reports that the non-alcoholic spirits category is expected to expand 35% by 2023.
This shift away from heavy drinking is largely tied to an increased focus on health. Joshua James, owner of the non-alcoholic retailer Ocean Beach Cafe in San Francisco, CA, explains what the new low- and no-ABV movement is all about.
“It's not just about abstinence from alcohol. This movement is also about people who just don’t want to drink as much. They want to enjoy some of the same flavors from alcoholic beverages, but without the hangover or other negative side effects.”
This doesn’t just mean switching to sodas, juices, or kid’s drinks. Joshua is particularly excited about the boom of non-alcoholic producers making flavors “for a grown-up palate.” Some of his favorite brands right now include Curious Elixirs, a line of botanical non-alcoholic craft cocktails, Sovi Wine, and Surley Wines, which both make delicious non-alcoholic wines. He notes, “We now have all of these complex flavors in a non-alcoholic form, so that I can make a hot toddy or a craft cocktail that tastes just as good, without consuming alcohol.”
Having a variety of low- and no-ABV drink options available is especially relevant as the sober-curious movement grows. Many people, especially Millennials and Gen Z, are embracing a new relationship with drinking where they either mindfully reduce their intake or periodically take breaks from alcohol altogether. Even Whole Foods has noticed a shift with shoppers, writing in their 2022 food trends report, “With millennials and Gen Z-ers dabbling in ‘drysolation’ during the pandemic, we don’t see the sober-curious mindset going away anytime soon.”
This trend also goes beyond demographics. Igor Parshin, Givaudan’s regional category manager for beverages, noted in a recent interview with FoodIngredientsFirst, “There isn’t one particular consumer who is reducing their alcohol intake, and generally, it’s across most consumer groups in terms of age.” Geographically, Joshua sees the no-ABV movement as just starting to grow in the United States, whereas non-alcoholic beers have had a greater market presence in markets like the U.K. and Germany for years. “Now, we have this global mass adoption of drinking less,” he explains.
As the non-alcoholic movement grows, make sure to have interesting and unique low- and no-ABV alternatives alongside your beer delivery and liquor delivery options so that customers who are looking to lower their alcohol intake can still enjoy a delicious adult beverage. Instead of listing these items separately, consider placing them near or next to your alcohol offerings — whether that’s on your menu or on a shelf — so that customers can organically discover your non-alcoholic alternatives.
Hard seltzer bubbles up
Hard seltzer brands are rapidly growing in popularity, with fun fruity flavors from Black Cherry to Spicy Pineapple. While hard seltzer sales don’t show any signs of slowing, expect to see demand grow for a greater variety of non-traditional hard drinks in 2022. “Hard seltzers are so popular right now. Some liquor stores have entire aisles dedicated to them,” Niki Hernandez, R&D manager and senior flavorist at Flavorchem, shared with FoodIngredientsFirst in a recent interview.
Watch for new spiked beverages such as hard kombucha, hard iced tea, and more. The trend shows no sign of slowing down: if it’s a drinkable liquid, expect a hard version of it on shelves soon. “We’ve seen hard seltzer move into hard everything else,” said Kara Nielsen, director of food and drink forecasting at WGSN, in a recent Wine Enthusiast article.
Make the most of this trend by planning your marketing around some of the year’s biggest drinking holidays, and plan to offer a variety of easy-drinking, chilled alcoholic seltzers that appeal to a wide range of customers. Make sure to add alcohol delivery to your offerings, so that customers can enjoy the convenience of getting their favorite beverages delivered during these busy days.
Adaptogens go mainstream
Piggybacking on the health trend, more and more consumers are interested in trying beverages with supplements that support their mental health too, driving sales of beverages with adaptogens. So what’s an adaptogen, exactly? Adaptogens are herbal pharmaceuticals — roots and herbs from Chinese and Ayurvedic healing traditions that are supposed to help your body handle and process stress, according to Time Magazine. Think of them as a massage for your brain and immune system.
Common adaptogenic ingredients include ashwagandha, lavender, ginseng, tulsi, and reishi. While the scientific evidence of their effectiveness is somewhat limited, that doesn’t seem to be stopping consumers from buying them. As journalist Amy Glynn wrote in Paste Magazine about the recent wave of adaptogenic beverages, “It’s impossible to guarantee they will make you smarter, faster, calmer, or thinner, but they’re definitely poised to make you less hungover.” That might be reason enough to drive sales: they’re a good enough alternative to — or addition to — drinking alcohol.
Natural wine sales spike
With unique tastes that can range from tasty to flat-out funky, natural wines are wines that have been made with organic ingredients, no additives, and have had little intervention in their fermentation. Essentially, it’s exactly how wine was made thousands of years ago.
Natural wines have been growing in popularity in the last couple years, ever since Institute for Origins and Quality (INAO), the French Ministry for Agriculture and the French Fraud Control Office agreed on a definition of “natural wine.” In fact, organic wine sales are forecasted to reach 87.5M cases globally by 2022.
Whether you’re a restaurant or retailer, having a handful of natural wine brands within your offerings is a good way to appeal to an adventurous customer who’s not afraid to drink off the beaten path.
Getting to-go cocktails has also become the standard both for retailers and restaurants. For many restaurants, selling to-go cocktail kits began as a way to keep sales going during the pandemic and on the retail side, ready-to-drink beverages like canned margaritas are one of the fastest growing alcohol categories. In fact, Future Market Insights projects that the global drink cans market will expand by 2.3x through 2031.
Why is this category exploding? Two reasons: convenience and recyclability. Canned drinks are portable and less fragile than glass containers, and the steel and aluminum used to make cans is much more recyclable than glass or other materials. In 2022, expect to see this portable category go places.
Alcohol delivery drives sales
In the wake of the pandemic, alcohol delivery sales are on the rise — and experts expect this trend to hold. Whether it’s due to safety concerns or a preference for convenience, more and more customers are enjoying getting their drinks delivered — and restaurants are finding that it helps boost profit margins, among other restaurant industry trends.
Looking for a partner to offer quick liquor delivery? Respond to the growing demand for delivery by signing up for alcohol delivery with DoorDash. DoorDash’s logistics platform makes it easy for retailers to get drinks to customers while maintaining compliance with local alcohol delivery laws and regulations. With DoorDash as an alcohol delivery partner, restaurants and retailers can boost sales on beer, wine, liquor, and other non-ABV beverages, as well as get goods to customers at today’s speed of life: DoorDash’s average delivery time is in 35 minutes or less.
What alcohol trends will be popular next?
While no one can say for certain what alcohol trends will emerge next, it’s safe to say that humans will continue to enjoy drinking it, given that alcohol has been around for nearly 10,000 years at this point. As you expand your alcohol and non-ABV beverage offerings, take note of what customers in your area are particularly drawn to, and curate your stock or menu based on that.