I have an opinion to share with you. I am not a big soap box person, but this is something that has been on my mind for a while. In fact, I just found the first draft of this that I began writing in 2021.
It’s something I believe is REALLY important to consider as the alcohol-free drinks industry grows at a rapid rate of knots. I begin with a question…that is, where do we (the non-alc consumer) choose to spend our money? And as a follow up question; who are we really supporting when we choose to spend money?
This line of enquiry began in the middle of last year, as I launched my ‘Perfect Pour’ consultancy. My first client had been sober for a few years now, but had never attempted any non-alcoholic drinks past an occasional beer. I was so excited to put my expertise to the test and create a list of alcohol-free wine and cocktail recommendations for her. I crafted a list of drinks to suit her tastes, that she could order online. But she also had a function that weekend and we needed an on the ground option. I contacted bottle shops near her and provided a few ideas for what she could get on the fly.
In my follow up with her, I was delighted that she had tried some of the wine I recommended and loved it. She felt more included in the social occasion she attended than she had in a long time. BUT… I was then horrified to discover that that trip to the bottle shop was nearly her undoing. Whilst at the store, she had got to the point of being in the line for the checkout with two bottles of alcoholic wine in hand. You see as someone who has no problem entering a bottle shop despite being sober (I regularly grab beer for my husband) I had never considered that this could be so triggering for someone. I nearly died when she told me this. She was fine and very graceful about the whole thing, but this was the first and very last time I ever sent anyone to a liquor shop to buy their non-alcoholic drinks. I have held onto the guilt for a long time.
Convenience vs The High Moral Ground
In growing my business, I have done a fair bit of market research. Some of this was around consumer shopping habits. What I found is that we are shopping in bottle shops as a force of habit. This is where we are used to shopping for our wines and beers. It’s convenient, you can grab something on the way home from work and you can let your eyes do the shopping. You can pick up a bottle and read the label. But here is where I urge you to consider who you are supporting when you are choosing convenience. The big liquor retailers are not well known for their superior ethical behaviour. They are there to make money.
They are not selling alcohol-free drinks in the hopes that they improve the drinking culture in Australia and help people achieve their health goals. They are seeing the money-making opportunity in non-alc and of course wanting to retain their customer base, if not expand on it. Their core business is selling booze and they have been known to do this in some pretty questionable ways, including billboard marketing in school zones and attempting to open a mega store next to a high risk, dry community (this was met with considerable community backlash over a five year planning period and eventually abandoned). Yep I am well and truly on my soap box now and hoping that you can see the benefits of planning ahead a little, keeping a good stock of alcohol free drinks in the cupboard/fridge to avoid those runs to the bottle shop. And if you NEED to shop in person, work with your local IGA. They are incredible, locally run businesses who are always happy to oblige. And if they need help getting stock I AM HERE TO HELP!
Now as you may well know, I have affiliate links with various alcohol-free businesses. That means that though the links to purchase from my reviews I earn a little commission from that retailer for my efforts (eg about $1.50 from every $20 bottle of wine you buy via my website comes to me). So yes, of course I want you to shop online, it helps me to keep doing what I am doing. BUT, as in all facets of my life I attempt to support small businesses where I can. I prefer to buy my clothes from op shops or independent makers. I prefer to buy my vege from local farmers than from the supermarket. I am always going to advocate for independent alcohol-free producers over the big-name brands (I am not much a fan of the extension brand – eg Carlton, Gordons etc but that is a blog for another day!). Everything I have covered for you here just really reinforces to me that as consumers choosing to be alternative and remove or reduce alcohol in our lives, we should be supporting the retailers that are championing that and are passionate about alcohol free. Not the ones whose core business is 97% selling the poison we are trying to avoid.
What do you think? Have I convinced you to reconsider your shopping habits?