Today’s conversation is another deep dive into a product that fits into the emerging “better-for-you” category, which comprises low-calorie and non-alcoholic beer, hard seltzers, kombucha, and more. Grocery stores are starting to organize their shelves around the category, as drinkers start looking for options that satisfy that itch for a beer but don’t interrupt their flow.
These kinds of drinks used to be seen as alternatives. Something you drank as a compromise when you really wanted something else. But as you’ll hear today, these drinks are increasingly being seen as a primary option—something that’s desirable and perfectly designed to fit within a wide range of occasions. There have been dozens of articles written lately, published in places like the New York Times, about the increasingly popular sober lifestyle. What’s behind that trend, and how big it is, is entirely up for debate.
In this conversation with Adam Warrington of Ab InBev—which recently launched a new project with an old standby, non-alcoholic brand called O’Doul’s—we try to get at the heart of the matter from a variety of directions. We discuss health consciousness, designated driving and moderation in general, as well as some of the newer social conventions that give NA beer new relevance, like social media, and our increasing desire to always be in control and well-presented to an imaginary audience.
Think about it. If you got a little drunk 10 years ago and did something lame, maybe five of your friends were there to see it. But now, you could wind up being viewed by tens of thousands, which has implications for everything we do—from how we decorate our apartments to the things we eat and drink, to the freedom we feel to let loose, or not, based on how vulnerable we feel.
This winds up being a very small part of the conversation today—this anxiety society we’re all living in now—but it was by far the biggest takeaway for me, and I can’t stop thinking about it. There’s a lot going on there, and non-alcoholic beer is perhaps a small sliver of this phenomenon. But it’s growing at an impressive rate. Are we ready for more emphasis on a sober lifestyle amongst the next generation? Are we ready for a more sober society in general?
O’Doul’s and other emerging NA brands are getting ready. In fact, Ab InBev and others think non-alcoholic and low-alcoholic beer could be as big as 20% of their worldwide sales in the next five years. That’s a very big bet they’re all making. And most of us still think beers like O’Doul’s are just that beer that sits low on the shelf in the back of the liquor store. How wrong we might be.
This is Adam Warrington of Ab InBev. Listen in.