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The No Booze DTC edition
On bars, mocktails, and the price of non-alcoholic spirits
Colin here. We’ve covered the rise in non-drinking culture extensively in WITI, both at the spirits and cultural levels. Predictably there’s been a surge in people making non-alcoholic products and new approaches to spaces like Getaway in NYC, no-alc bars that serve the same purpose as watering holes but focus on ambiance and mocktails.
Here’s something we wrote about Seedlip in an earlier WITI:
…Seedlip positions itself as what to drink when you’re not drinking. According to the brand, it is based on the distilled non-alcoholic remedies from The Art of Distillation written in 1651. The problem is that other than Spice 94 (“A complex blend of aromatic Jamaican Allspice berry & Cardamom distillates with two barks & a bright citrus finish”), the rest of the products seem like little more than water infused with whatever they can use to justify a $35 price tag…
Charging customers the same price as alcohol minus the cost of alcohol is quite a feat. So, I was delighted to see the Tik Tok business commentator (and WITI reader) Dulma lay down some real talk recently about these products, asserting, “I’m all for no booze or low booze CPG options but can anyone explain to me why my mocktail needs to cost the same as an alcoholic one? This is where I draw the line unless you’ve put ashwagandha harvested under the full moon by Tibetan monks in there.”
I’ve had this thought when ordering a mocktail that costs $14. I get that you’re also paying for ingredients, process, and the place's ambiance, but it still seemed odd.
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Predictably, given her followership, there was some pushback on the thread from founders and some real talk back from Dulma: “But here’s the thing: you can’t hit your customers over the head with the tough economics of your business to convince them to buy. Your low margins are not their business.”
Why is this interesting?
Amen. I’ve long thought that brands like Seedlip selling artisanally flavored water for 35+ USD a bottle is an amazing trick. Sure, when we dive deep into the making of some non-alc spirits, a lot can go into R&D, ingredient sourcing, and process. It isn’t just flavored water, but I feel there was a bit of a DTC-tinged bubble in the market. And as the economy tightens, brands that have made their sell about their aesthetic—a beautiful bottle and nicely shot influencer campaigns—will face some intense headwinds.
There’s still a lot of need for interesting products in this space, and non-drinking culture continues to grow steadily. Still, the pricing ruse that many were able to get away with in the high-flying days won’t work as discretionary spending goes down, even among the vaunted HENRY creative class. (CJN)
Thanks for reading,
Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN)
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