Op-Ed: Embracing the non-alcoholic drinks market

6 Jun 2024 by Business Traveller Middle East
Erika Doyle (Image supplied by: Drink Dry Store)

Low or no-alcohol drinks have created a major buzz in the beverages market in recent years, and the hospitality industry is taking note. It’s clear the trend is here to stay, marking a permanent place on menus across the world

The non-alcoholic drinks category has come a long way in the last five years here in the Middle East. Like with any new category or more niche product offering, the first step is always to get the consumers onboard. You must excite the consumers to try it and to believe in it.

If you take a closer look at the type of content alcohol-free brands globally are releasing and are associating themselves with, it is all about socialising, inclusion, diversity and most importantly fun. Not drinking alcohol should not and does not mean that people can no longer have fun. For those who are well versed in the world of alcohol and know their wines, spirits, and beers, and even for those who have only dipped their toes in trying some alcoholic beverages, it is much easier to understand low- and no-alcohol drinks and how to place them in a relevant and appropriate social occasion. There is a strong point of reference there.

But what has contributed the most to this current buzz of non-alcoholic drinks is that finally, the hospitality sector here in the Middle East is seeing the benefits of including a strong alcohol-free offering in their venues. Non alcoholic drinks have another unique selling point – they are very low in calories and they are low in sugar. This could not be more topical right now here in the Middle East, with obesity rates amongst children and adults going up at an alarming rate. These new drinks additions are therefore relevant to the local Muslim population, who are not familiar with the alcoholic drinks, but are looking to cut back on their sugar intake and lead a healthier lifestyle.

Drink Dry (Image supplied by: Drink Dry Store)

Being seen as an inclusive place to be is of course great and to be encouraged; however, more than anything else, the operators are now seeing a strong commercial benefit of having a wider choice of drinks.

Let’s take a look at a real -life example and look at simple maths. Venue A sells an alcoholic beer for Dhs40 and an alcoholic cocktail for Dhs45 on their menu; soft drinks – Dhs10 for a glass of Pepsi, Coca-Cola or orange juice, for example, and Dhs25 for a traditional sugar-laden mocktail. How many soft drinks can one customer have during a lunch or dinner? No more than two, usually. So, at best, Venue A is looking to make Dhs35-50 from a non-alcohol-drinking guest on drinks.

Meanwhile, Venue B sells alcoholic beers and cocktails at the same price point as Venue A, but instead of soft drinks, they have a selection of premium non-alcoholic drinks: a selection of non-alcoholic beers priced at Dhs35 and sophisticated non-alcoholic cocktails that are using non-alcoholic spirits instead of just syrups, for instance, and they are priced at Dhs40. Using the same assumption that a non-drinking consumer will have maximum of two drinks, Venue B is looking to make a minimum of Dhs77-80 from that same non-drinking consumer.

Now multiply that difference by 1,000 guests and voila, you have yourself a winning argument for adding sophisticated non-alcoholic drinks on each and every menu.

And this is just the beginning. The category is here to stay and it is here to grow. The quality of the products is forever evolving and improving. If I was to make a prediction, I would say that each and every licenced and non-licenced venue in the Middle East will have a solid non-alcoholic drinks offering by 2030.

Words by Erika Doyle, founder of Drink Dry Store – the region’s first for premium non-alcoholic drinks

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The cover of the Business Traveller June 2024 edition
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