Close Menu

Non-alcoholic ‘most exciting’ drinks category, new report claims

Innovation in ‘non-alcoholic’ drinks is the most exciting drinks trend, Diageo’s spirits innovation company Distill Ventures has claimed.

The spirit’s giant’s start-up ‘accelerator’, Distill Ventures has said the exciting trends in grown-up non-alcoholic drinks marked the “biggest opportunity in the drinks industry right now”, in the first of a series of new trend reports.

Driven by a greater focus on wellbeing and the same thirst for memorable experiences that has fuelled the rise of premium craft drinks, so-called ‘non-drinkers’ are no longer content with soft, sweet, fruit-driven or fizzy drink, the report found. . They have “greater curiosity around different flavours” and want better choices, it said, which includes greater complexity of flavours, a less-is-more approach to ingredients, service with a sense of occasion and presentation on a par with its alcoholic counterparts.

“Volume and price have been overtaken by quality and value in society’s pursuit of memorable experiences,” it said. “Standard food and drinks options can no longer compete, as more interesting combinations and options are available.”

As a result, bars and restaurants were increasingly offering their own in-house no- or low-alcohol offerings, which are gaining greater prominence in the drinks menu. Along with this higher standing, bartenders are presenting them with greater theatre than the average standard soft drink, and the prices reflect the more ‘crafted’, authentic approach.

The report concluded that there was enormous opportunity for the category in the on-trade.

“As drinking trends change, and people are looking for drinks that add to, or even define their experience, bars and restaurants need to pay as close attention to their non-alcoholic drinks, as they would their wine or cocktail lists, and even their food menus,” it said.

Click through to find out more about some of the more creative non-alcoholic drinks gracing the capital’s bars and tables…


The original non-alcoholic spirit launched on the market in November 2015 and soon caught the attention of high spec bars in London, and also Diageo itself. Flavoured with a selection botanicals but avoiding juniper so that it doesn’t emulate gin, the drink launched a second line last summer, with a fresher, less intense hit courtesy of its peas, hay and hops botanicals. However more lines are planned, with  a third spirit due to come to market next year, along with limited edition seasonal line and a dark spirit.

The company, which scooped the Drinks Business Launch of the Year Award in May, is currently expanding its presence in the US while eyeing up other major cities across the world.

Talking about the brand’s success to db recently, founder Ben Branson admitted it was “99% down to timing”.

“The timing was perfect – if we had launched two years earlier, it would have been too early, but with things like the sugar tax debate and the rise of craft spirits, it is like being in the slip-stream of a bigger force or trend”.


Originating in the Far East, this fermented, slightly fizzy sweet and sour tea-based drink can be something of an acquired taste. However advocates of Kombucha attribute a host of health benefits to the drink – and having gained a following in the whole foods section of specialist stores in the US more than ten years ago, the gut-friendly drink has started to transcend its health beverage roots and is set to become a staple in London pubs, LA Brewery founder Louise Avery told the Evening Standard recently. As well as offering something a bit different to juices and fruity drinks that can satisfy the more grown-up demands of alcohol and non-alcohol drinker alike, Kombucha can be very successfully paired with food, Avery said.

In addition to LA Brewery, brands including LoveKombucha, Blessed Brew, Jarr Kombucha, and Ucha Kombucha, which use fruit and herbs to add variety and layers of flavour to the traditional drink.

Higher tech teas & coffees

If the fermented version of tea doesn’t tickle your palate, then a carbonated natural teas that take inspiration from Champagne may hit the spot, such as Copenhagen Sparkling tea. Alternatively, development in coffee preparation over the last five years and the introduction of new techniques such as cold-brew coffee and its super-charged sibling, nitro-charged coffee – a foamy black coffee on draught that promises a Guinness-like smoothness to your brew courtesy of having nitrogen slowly bubbled through it – are increasingly coming to prominence as an alternative to booze.

Shrubs and drinking vinegars

Drinking vinegar is no longer just a cure for hiccups – the development of cold-pressed cider apple vinegars, or shrubs, that are infused with fruit, spices or herbs has been a hot trend in the US for a number of years. With flavours such as turmeric, ginger, grapefruit and apple, shrubs are drunk as an non-alcoholic aperitif, or mixed in cocktails and mocktails to give a tart and tangy flavour that promises a range of health benefits from promoting digestion to boosting a healthy immune system. Bartenders are brewing there own, but there are some brands now available, including Georgia-based company Shrub & Co, Pok Pok Som from Oregon-based restauranteur Andy Ricker and Walthamstow-based Shrb Drinks in the UK.

According to Mustafa of Shrb Drinks, sales have been “excellent” in craft beer pubs and bars, as well as delis and cafes, but restaurants have been slightly slower to adopt the trend. “I feel restaurants are more difficult to penetrate as teetotalism is not something they’re very conscious of as yet, though that’s beginning to change,” he told db.

It looks like you're in Asia, would you like to be redirected to the Drinks Business Asia edition?

Yes, take me to the Asia edition No