Meet New York’s First Non-Alcoholic Spirits Distributor

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Some might say the non-alcoholic sphere is reaching its climax. Research companies are increasingly attaching large-scale valuations to the category (IWSR recently boasted that the alcohol-free and low-alcohol category reached nearly $10 billion) as new products hit the the market at an increasingly rapid pace.

But is there room for a fully engaged soft drink distributor?

Earlier this month, non-alcoholic dispenser Proof No More launched in New York, after a group of beverage industry veterans saw an increasingly attractive white space in the retail market. . “We researched the alcohol-free space for four years,” says co-founder Ed Carino. “During my career as a beer exporter, I have really noticed the evolution of the non-alcoholic European scene. While the New York market is still naive when it comes to non-alcs, our philosophy is that we’d rather be the first to do it.

If you look at the nuances of the New York beverage market, a dedicated non-alcoholic dispenser is desperately needed.

“Non-alc spirits and wines have huge marketing challenges due to New York State rules,” says Carino. Regular liquor distributors are not allowed to sell to accounts without liquor retail licenses, which means “liquor distributors have difficulty managing grocery accounts – Whole Foods and Fairways – because they don’t have the right retail permits.”

“As the non-alc market continues to evolve, certain accounts like wellness and yoga studios and cafes will be incredibly valuable. Typical liquor distributors simply won’t appeal to these smaller independent accounts.”

He points out that stores like Williams-Sonoma and Crate & Barrel now offer non-alcoholic products paired with their selection of cocktail kits and barware. Retail locations like these are places liquor distributors do not and cannot target. “The fruits close at hand for distributors of non-alcoholic products are bars, restaurants and bottle shops. But we see these non-traditional accounts becoming incredibly effective channels in the near future.

There is also a difference in priorities for a strictly non-alc distributor. “For a distributor, typically 85-95% of a rep’s bonus is based on five or six SKUs — the Bud Lights, the Heinekens, the Tito’s,” Carino explains. If a distributor has 2,000 SKUs in their portfolio and five minutes to meet with a beverage manager, which product is promoted? Probably the money makers. (Spoiler alert: they’re boozy.)

The other option for a non-ABV brand would be to go to a food retailer, but this will result in the loss of valuable relationships with bars and other liquor retailers.

Proof No More aims to reduce these issues, creating a stacked portfolio of proof-free products, including Giesen’s New Zealand wines, CleanCo’s diverse portfolio of zero-proof spirits and Salcombe’s full-bodied gin riff. Distilling.

“While it’s not uncommon for a typical spirits distributor to sell 10 different gins,” explains Carino, “the non-alcoholic sphere isn’t mature enough for that — we don’t need 10 different gins. So we aim for diversity by sourcing wines from New Zealand, California, Australia and South Africa. Although distribution is our core business, we also sell online, and we’ve found that diversity is what people are looking for on our website.

One of the biggest barriers to these products is education – working with beverage managers and buyers to understand the value these products offer.

“One of the biggest misconceptions about commercial accounts is that non-alcoholic products are only for people who are sober, pregnant or sober for religious reasons,” he continues. “But 80% of people who buy soft drinks still drink alcohol.” As more and more delicious, zero-proof options hit the market, the primary consumers aren’t teetotalers – they’re millennials and Gen Z consumers looking to moderate their consumption. alcohol, parents who wake up early, or people who “just don’t do it”. t 24 more” and switch to non-alc as the night draws to a close. He finds that trends like hard seltzers — they’re low in sugar and calories — and sugar-free wines reflect a collective interest in more conscious consumption.

As they grow, Proof No More aims to have a network of 120-150 accounts, but “we want to be in accounts that include the non-alcoholic sphere. We focus early on on opening accounts that champion the alcohol-free space – we don’t want to open a new account and leave products on the shelf.

“We try to change people’s perceptions and perspectives. Part of the drinking ritual is just socializing – you don’t want to feel out of place. These abstinent drinkers often no longer go to bars because they feel uncomfortable sitting with water or sodas when all their friends are drinking. They’re willing to spend the money, but you need to offer them quality non-alcoholic options.

Even for the least receptive accounts, there were some good surprises to be found in non-alc. An account that Carino frequented as an alcohol distributor recently stocked a few of its non-alcoholic SKUs as a courtesy. “They were surprised how quickly he moved. Since then, he has increased his orders of non-alcoholic beers and we offer him non-alcoholic wines.

Although he notes, a huge hurdle is the placement of products on the shelves once they land in a premise or offsite. “It’s a business dilemma of where to place non-alcs,” says Carino. “How to market non-alcoholic wines and spirits so that they are not buried with hundreds of other beverage references?” One of their services includes creating “no proof” kiosks in grocery stores and supermarkets. He would like to see bars offer full, no-proof options of cocktails on the menu.

As the challenges persist, “we are clearly seeing signs that we are no longer premature,” says Carino. “Two years ago, the non-alcoholic space encountered much more hesitation. We’re now starting to have celebrities supporting the category, from Blake Lively’s Betty Buzz to Katy Perry’s De Soi. It is now.”

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