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More consumers reaching for alcohol-free beer, wines and spirits

Various studies over the past two years have shown that there was a worldwide increase in alcohol consumption during the pandemic because many people were worried and stressed as they self-isolated due to COVID-19.

But now, it appears there is a new trend happening as sales statistics show there has been an increase in the purchases of alcohol-free beer, wine and spirits.

“You can have non-alcoholic beers now that are so close to the real thing that you could probably fool someone in a taste test," said Sarah Kate, an alcohol-free sommelier, who is also the founder of the website, Some Good Clean Fun.

Kate promotes an alcohol-free and healthy lifestyle and said a global survey by Bacardi Limited, the world's largest privately held spirits company, found that 58 per cent of consumers are now drinking beverages that contain low or no alcohol for personal and mental health reasons.

Kate said it includes not only non-alcoholic beers and wines but also spirits such as whiskeys and bourbons.

“There has been a 30 per cent increase in non-alcoholic beer sales in the U.S. last year so I don’t see this trend slowing down anytime soon,” said Kate.

The Junction Craft Brewery in Toronto makes many specialty craft beers, but they're also expanding into the non-alcoholic beer market. The company brews Rival and Gruvi brands and they come in many craft flavours like Pale Ales and Juicy IPAs.

Stuart Wheldon, the CEO of Junction Craft Brewery said that there is a surge in interest in non-alcoholic beers and it's not just among pregnant women or designated drivers. Health conscious consumers are looking for alcohol-free options that still taste great.

"They are excited to find non-alcoholic beers that look like craft beers as well as having that same experience, a brand they can get behind. We are seeing Canadian brands pop up in the non-alcoholic space that have that craft beer feel,” said Wheldon.

There is an excise tax on non-alcoholic beer that the industry has long felt has been unfair. It is $2.82 a hectolitre (100 litres). David Clement is the North American Affairs manager for the Consumer Choice Center in Ottawa that advocates on behalf of consumers.

Clement said that in the last federal budget it was announced that they were going to repeal the excise tax on non-alcoholic beer as of July 1, which he believes is the right decision.

“There is no alcohol related harm in non-alcohol related products, so it didn't make sense from our perspective to have any excise taxes on anything non-alcoholic because it doesn't carry the same risks," said Clement.

As more people consider alcohol free products, more breweries will be getting on board and it's expected to grow to a global four billion dollar industry over the next three years.

“You’re going to see a lot of interesting non-alcoholic beers and complimentary type products over the next few years," said Wheldon.

If you're buying alcohol-free products you still need to check the labels as some come with absolutely zero per cent alcohol while others may contain a half of one per cent. It's not much, but it may help with your buying decision. 

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