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Canadians are raising a glass to nonalcoholic drinks

May 1, 2023
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Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: Wisconsin beverage makers may find a spirited reception to healthy alternatives to traditional beers, wines, and liquors.

Canadians are tempering their alcohol use and turning more to nonalcoholic beverages.

Alcohol sales in Canada rose 2.4% in the fiscal year that ended March 30, 2022, according to Statistics Canada. But the increase was due to higher prices. The volume of alcohol sold declined 1.2%, the first drop since 2013-14.

About 20% of Canadians said they are drinking less alcohol than they did before the pandemic, and among those between the ages of 15 and 29, one-third said they’d reduced their alcohol intake.

The report shows Canadians bought $26 billion worth of alcoholic beverages in 2021-22. Beer was the top choice, amounting to 35% of the alcoholic drinks sold, while 31% of the sales were for wine, 26% for spirits, and 8% for ciders and coolers.

By volume, though, wine sales fell 4% from the previous year, the biggest decline since Statistics Canada began keeping records in 1949, and beer sales were 2.8% lower than the year before.

More than 5 million Canadians engaged in heavy drinking at least once a month in 2021, the smallest number recorded for this figure since 2015.

Beverage manufacturers say it’s becoming more socially acceptable to be “sober curious”—the term for those choosing less, lighter, or no alcohol.

The Liquor Control Board of Ontario began stocking nonalcoholic drinks in 2018; today, it carries 16 products in that category, including beer, wine, a spirit, and a mixed drink. Five more wines and two beers will be introduced next year. Sales of the no-alcohol products have grown 20% in the past year on average, and as much as 25% for nonalcoholic beer. The Canadian Health Food Association said it is seeing an “explosion” of canned zero-proof, ready-to-drink cocktails and other beverages.

If the trends continue, Wisconsin’s innovative and health-conscious nonalcoholic beverage makers may find a receptive market in Canada.

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