One of the biggest headlines of the pandemic was: Everyone drank a lot of home, and ordered in massive amounts of alcohol. That’s true but it’s also true that despite (or because of?) that drinking trend, zero-proof spirits also experienced sales bumps.
Ritual Zero Proof, one of the first American non-alcoholic spirit alternatives, launched in the fall of 2019. The following year could have been dismal for the new brand, given that the usual ways for consumers to discover new drinks products (bars, tasting events) were stifled during national lockdowns. And well, people were drinking cocktails at home, boosting Drizly sales to frothy heights.
Ritual Zero Proof, which launched with zero proof all-natural botanical alternatives to gin, whiskey and later, tequila, also tracked strong consumer interest. The company recorded a 241% growth in revenue in 2020 and is already on track to beat those sales, according to company executives.
Early this month, the Chicago-based company launched its newest expression, a dark rum alternative, flavored with Tupelo honey, clove, and cinnamon. An online pre-sale of the rum set a company high for best single sales to date, notching a 38% increase from the previous record.
“There’s this perception that because of lockdowns, everyone got interested in health, and the same time, alcohol sales boomed,” Ritual Zero Proof co-founder Marcus Sakey says. “I think the pandemic had very little impact on our sales one way or the other.”
The surge in sales for Ritual wasn’t surprising to Sakey, given what he’s learned about his consumers. The typical zero proof consumer, Sakey says, is the same person who might buy beef as well as plant-based meals, and will drink dairy as well as oat milk. In short, this is someone who just wants more balance, not necessarily exclusion.
“[Our customers] are aware of their habits, and at the same time, very protective of them,” Sakey says. “They want to make a cocktail and not feel bad about it. What they love in Ritual is the ability to mix a cocktail however they like.”
“Our approach is: We’re not anti-alcohol, we are pro- having it your way,” Sakey says. He adds that up to half of Americans are actively trying to drink less, while at least of third of Americans don’t drink at all.
Given the mass closings of venues last year, Ritual (and other zero proof options) may not yet be in your local bar or store just yet. But with the reopening of the economy and the growing demand by consumers, expect more zero proof options to show up on bar menus and grocery store shelves.
Whereas when Ritual first launched, the company faced resistance from bars who were skeptical about buying non-alcoholic bottles that were priced similar to lower end liquors, that perception is changing, in part because of economics. “Beverage directors are seeing that this is a new revenue stream,” Sakey says. “The person who wants a non-alcoholic drink isn’t going to order a high proof cocktail. That’s money they are losing.”