Comment: Demand for better non-alcoholic beverages

Is an emerging global trend for non-alcoholic drinks a potential boon for the region's hospitality sector?

Caterer Middle East editor Sarah Jacotine.
Caterer Middle East editor Sarah Jacotine.

We all know that Dubai and the wider region likes to keep up with global F&B trends, with operators regularly telling Caterer how vital it is that they keep tabs on what the world’s culinary hubs are up to.

It was during a recent conversation with one such operator about looking to the New Yorks and Londons of the world when I started to consider that there is something of an emerging trend in both of those cities that the region doesn’t seem to have fully embraced yet, but that, in my opinion, would be a perfect fit.

For too long, options for people who do not want to drink alcohol when they go out have been limited to sodas, water and juices. Even where an outlet serves mocktails, it always strikes me that not too much imagination has gone into them.

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On a recent trip to the UK, however, I noticed (as I was scouring menus at every bar and restaurant I visited — hazard of the job), a wide range of non-alcoholic beers, ciders, wines, bubbly and even spirits. Perhaps there is there more to offer than a poorly thought out mocktail?

A little bit of market research later (N.B. talking to operators offering these beverages and friends in the industry) I learned there is a growing movement of consumers in the UK cutting down on alcohol.

Perhaps the countless articles in the press linking alcohol with illnesses and a reduction in the recommended weekly unit intake (by the British government) earlier this year have made an impact. Not forgetting, of course, there has been global trend for many years of consumers opting for healthier food and drink choices.

It was while I was reading that New York City bars are making it a great time to be a teetotaller and London hosting the launch of the world’s first non-alcoholic spirit, created by Ben Branson and used to create gin-style cocktails, that I thought Dubai could easily grab a slice of this new market.

After all, a growing demographic — the non-alcoholic drinks market is slated to reach US $1937.7 billion by 2020 — is looking for inspiring and exciting drinks. Why shouldn’t Dubai step up to meet this need?

For operators, there is a considerable profit margin to consider; interesting ingredients, a well-crafted balanced taste and beautiful presentation is something many consumers would be willing to pay for, especially health conscious ones. And removing the most expensive ingredient in a beverage has obvious benefits for an operator’s bottom line.

This is one trend which, if the region jumps on board with, could benefit everyone — and we can all drink to that.

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