As the no-alcohol (NA) space starts to expand, the category gets more creative. We have soulless versions of every major alcohol, from rum to aged tequila to Aperol alternatives.
Spiritless, a line of non-alcoholic spirits based in Austin, is veering into the RTD space by launching two non-alcoholic canned cocktails. Now, drinkers can break out a sour or old whiskey can while avoiding excessive alcohol intake. The 250ml packages come in 35 and 45 calories, respectively.
Over the past few years, the non-alcoholic space has been exploding, as alcohol drinkers reconsider their relationship to alcohol by regulating themselves, spending more frequent nights, or abstaining from smoking. Citing Nielsen data, the low and low ABV segment has grown 506% since 2015. But while sales of alcohol substitutes have pushed the limits, brands have struggled to resonate with drinkers who didn’t know how to make cocktails. A study by Diageo-backed Distill Ventures found that there are three huge challenges the no-ABV category faces: “liquid franchising, education, and drinking experience.”
“It is really important to try these products and these wonderful liquids in the ultimate cocktail form,” explains Spiritless co-founder Lauren Chitwood. The answer is soulless? Create low-effort, high-flavor cocktails that require no mixing skills.
This is the fourth product from Team Spiritless, after whiskey substitute, ginger ale, and non-alcoholic tequila. Looking to expand beyond those core products, Chitwood and co-founder Lexi Larsen recognized that the majority of consumers are switching between alcoholic and non-alcoholic products.
“These are the people who might enjoy a drink on the weekends, but are more thoughtful during the week,” says Chitwood. “What we have been able to establish with regular drinkers is that they love convenience. So it is not at all surprising that the same consumer would love the convenience of something non-alcoholic at home.”
“It became very clear to us that ready-to-drink cocktails should be the next step,” she continues. “The consumer was demanding it.”
When defining flavors, these two products were fan favorites and versatile to capture a variety of drinking occasions. “The whiskey tart is light and bright—it’s great to have in the summer,” Larsen explains. “Old Style is a tried and true classic. It was hard not to start with the classics! We wanted flavors that were very distinctive and easy to understand.” When developing the recipe, they did not want unfamiliar flavors. “It was about staying true to the cocktail.”
4 packs sell for $15.99. 12-packs are available on Spiritless.com for $47.99. In addition to online retail, the products will be available at a variety of touch points, from grocery stores to gift stores to traditional liquor stores.
The launch comes after bending to the tequila category, with the recent unveiling of the zero-zero agave spirit.
And in perfect timing. Data from the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) showed sales of premium spirits grew 43% in the past year, led largely by tequila. “Tequila is set to surpass whiskey this year in terms of category size,” says Chitwood.
The new soulless offerings also benefit from another major trend: ready-to-drink.
Parallel to the exponential growth of the normal buffer RTD space, the alcohol-free RTD space is advancing its pace. There are a handful of premium brands that offer non-crack-resistant cocktail tins. Ghia has a delicious aperitif, while Hella Cocktail Co has Tasty Bitter and soda. Parch offers agave-based cocktails in flavors like Prickly Paloma and Spiced Pinarita.
“We’ll continue to look for those compelling data points,” says Lauren. “This will inform our next step. I have no doubts that there are future innovations for non-spirituals.”