Pregnancy, health, addiction, safety – there’s a myriad of reasons why consumers may choose to abstain from alcohol at any given period. For two of the original co-founders of non-alcoholic drinks brand Brunswick Aces, cutting out alcohol due to pregnancy and triathlon training back in 2017 revealed a lack of choice in alcohol-free beverages and was the catalyst for the creation of a non-alcoholic gin. Since then, Stephen Lawrence and Dr Cameron Hunt, an engineer and scientist respective
ectively, have designed a collection of non-alcoholic gins (or sapiirs as they call them) that are now ranged nationally and exported to New Zealand, Singapore, the Middle East, and soon the UK and USA. But this month, the brand reached another major milestone, opening the doors of the first non-alcoholic bar and bottle shop in Australia. The Brunswick Aces Bar offers “non-drinkers and the sober curious” a place to socialise, that looks and feels like a traditional bar. “Having a physical space not only means Brunswick Aces customers have somewhere to come and enjoy a sapiir and tonic or delicious cocktail, but also a non-alcoholic beer or wine too. We see ourselves as the hub of non-alcoholic [drinks] in Australia,” Stuart Henshall, Brunswick Aces brand director told Inside Retail. The Brunswick Aces Bar, on Weston Street in Brunswick East, Melbourne, is somewhere non-drinkers can feel “respected, prioritised, and catered for”, he said. The bar offers over 100 different drinks, from non-alcoholic beers by Heaps Normal, Bridge Road Brewers and Hawkesbury Brewing Co, to zero-alcohol wines by Plus and Minus, Edenvale and Songbird. There are also cocktails and mixed drinks that use the Brunswick Aces range, but they also feature traditional competitors like Ovant from Western Australia, or Clovendoe from Queensland. “The space has non-alcoholic choices never before seen on-prem (bars/restaurants) or off-prem (liquor stores) in Australia,” Henshall said. Demand from younger consumers While the bar attracts a broad demographic of people from ages 18-80, including friends, family and partners of non-drinkers, millennials and Gen Z consumers, in particular, are driving demand for no- and low-alcohol options globally. “Demand for ‘no-lo’ alcohol beverages shows no sign of slowing down given the number of consumer trends it taps into, particularly wellbeing and moderation driven by millennials and Gen Zs but also consumers who overindulged in the earlier part of the pandemic,” Norrelle Goldring, executive director at Illuminera Australia, told Inside Retail. “The growth of no-alcohol beers, wines and spirits allows various consumer groups such as pregnant women, non-drinkers and designated drivers the ability to partake and feel included in social occasions without guilt, and with something more interesting to drink than a lemon lime and bitters.” Major alcohol companies are also getting in on the action. Carlton United Beverages (CUB) launched Carlton Zero in 2018 and the product is now available in supermarkets and bottleshops nationally, Goldring points out. “[CUB] is on record saying it expects 2 per cent of total beer by 2025 to be no-alcohol. Some pundits have pegged the no-alcohol beer share of total beer globally at 5 per cent by 2027. The beer behemoth AB Inbev has suggested that no- and low- ABV [alcohol by volume] products will represent 20 per cent of their volume in the near future,” she said. Category innovation Thanks to the innovation in the category in recent years, Brunswick Aces had a wide range of brands and products to choose from when stocking the bar. “The range of Australian products alone is incredible, the care and craftsmanship that goes into creating non-alcoholic drinks is just fantastic. We have always wanted to open a bar, but until now the range just hasn’t been there to provide customers with the best experience,” Henshall said. “Since opening the bar we don’t see anyone as our competitor anymore, we are of the opinion that a rising tide floats all boats, so we want to work with the non-alcoholic community to showcase their products to help us all succeed.” And while the increased competition is good news for consumers, it also presents a challenge for other beverages brands to retain their place on the shelf. Goldring said some beverage category subsegments will need to be “downweighted in range and facings to allow for the increase in space of no-alcohol beer and wine”. “My money would be on bulk water, energy and sports drinks [losing out]. The space won’t be coming from kombucha or seltzers as these are two other growing beverage categories tapping into wellbeing trends at the expense of more traditional categories,” she said. On track for growth For Brunswick Aces, the strategy is to expand where there is demand, both domestically and internationally. “When we announced the bar back in February, we were inundated with non-drinkers and moderators from Perth to Byron Bay asking us to open a bar there, as well as overseas in Dubai and the UK,” Henshall said. “Once we have solidified the running of the bar and bottle shop in Melbourne and shown it is a viable business, we will look to open additional venues in other locations.” The brand is planning a number of pop-ups this year to test consumer demand in new locations.