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Fall Trend Report: No-, Low-, and Functional Beverage Trends

Key Takeaways for the Functional and Nonalcoholic Beverage Spaces


Heading into the fall, Sober October, end-of-year, and with Dry January just a few months away, we thought it would be helpful to highlight some seasonal trends and other commentary on all things beverage. If your company isn’t tapping into trends or creating them, now is the time to start planning.  Several retail sources put out trend reports, like one we like from delivery company Drizly who recently released its Fall Trend Report, which offers key insights into what consumers are drinking, what’s trending, and what’s next.  We expand on their coverage to include functional infused beverages as well (i.e., Adaptogens and Hemp).

Here are a few key takeaways, including HCB Insights for how this data impacts the functional and nonalcoholic beverage spaces:


Consumers are staying in and hosting more


  • In light of factors like economic uncertainty, a rebounding Covid influence, and other factors, more consumers are choosing to stay in, cherishing the delightful experience of sipping beverages in the comfort of their own homes. Drizly’s report not only underscores this trend but also reveals that these at-home enthusiasts often embrace their inner mixologist and opt for higher-priced products compared to their outings.  According to Drizly’s annual consumer report, 47 percent of respondents plan to host gatherings as frequently as they did in 2022, with an additional 22 percent planning to entertain friends and family even more often this year.


  • Moreover, it’s not just about solitary sipping; consumers are increasingly becoming hosts in their own right. According to Drizly’s findings, when people do host at home, their beverage budgets are quite telling. For parties with five or fewer guests, the average spend hovers around $100. Casual get-togethers with five to ten attendees see an average expenditure of approximately $150, while for larger gatherings of ten or more, it’s not uncommon to see budgets exceeding $300.


  • HCB Insights: The increasing consumer willingness to invest in higher-priced products for at-home enjoyment, especially during their “hosted gatherings”, coupled with the rise of at-home mixology, reflects a burgeoning fascination with the craft of beverages. These compelling trends suggest that consumers are not only seeking exceptional drinks but are also eager to delve deeper into the art of mixology, even within the comforts of their own abode. This evolving interest indicates a desire to gain a more profound understanding of what they’re sipping, striving for nothing less than the finest drinking experience.  Beverages continue to hold a central role in the art of hosting at home, and as consumers venture into new beverage categories like cannabis or hemp-infused beverages, they are poised to bring their guests along on this exploration. In fact, these guests are often swayed by the recommendations of friends and family, creating a ripple effect of beverage discovery and enjoyment that enhances the overall hosting experience.


The Surging Demand for Nonalcoholic and Cannabis Beverages


  • The nonalcoholic beverage category has recently gained significant traction, earning a prominent spot on Drizly’s “trending” section. This surge is substantiated by Drizly’s findings, revealing a remarkable 29% growth in NA categories on their platform in 2022 compared to the preceding year. Notably, a substantial portion of the younger demographic is embracing this trend, with 23% of Gen Z and 24% of millennials reporting frequent consumption of non-alcoholic beer, wine, or spirits.


  • As reported by EMR, the cannabis beverage market has emerged as a powerhouse. In 2022, it reached an impressive value of USD 3.94 billion, driven primarily by the expanding legalization of cannabis. Forecasts for the period of 2023-2028 are even more promising, with a projected Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 48%. This robust growth is attributed to the escalating demand for wellness drinks, indicating a significant shift towards cannabis-infused beverages as a preferred choice in the ever-evolving beverage landscape.


  • HCB Insights: As we head into fall, we expect to see many new consumers joining the movement to nonalcoholic and functional-infused beverages for their share of buzz and to share during the holiday season.  This will only further support the ongoing national trends around alcohol reduction, as younger generations are drinking less alcohol, but are still looking to enjoy a beverage in their social lives and at-home drinking habits. Beverages remain a key driver of socialization, even for those who aren’t drinking alcohol and we’re seeing older demographics adopt cannabis and hemp-infused beverages as well, as an alternative to alcohol.


Navigating the Landscape: Nonalcoholic RTDs and RTM Cannabis Drinks


  • In the ever-evolving world of Ready-to-Drink (RTD) beverages, nonalcoholic options are gaining traction. Drizly’s research highlights a growing curiosity among consumers, with 17% expressing interest in exploring Non-Alcoholic (NA) RTDs, closely followed by a 14% interest in nonalcoholic wines. Notably, distinct demographic preferences emerged, as Millennials (22%) and Gen Z (21%) leaned towards nonalcoholic wines, while Gen X (15%) and Boomers (17%) favored the broader RTD category.


  • Adding an exciting dimension to this landscape is the burgeoning market of RTM (Ready-to-Mix) cannabis drinks. According to a recent report from ingredient supplier SoRSE, the market saw the introduction of cannabis shots and the rise of water-soluble tinctures. Looking ahead to 2024, producers are poised to diversify their offerings, introducing shots, tablets, and stick packs tailored for RTM cannabis drinks. These compact formats cater seamlessly to the fast-paced lifestyles of consumers, while also offering benefits to producers in terms of reduced shipping costs and optimized dispensary shelf space.


  • HCB Insights: This may indicate that older consumers are less likely to give up the traditional versions of beverages such as wine, and are more likely to explore RTDs that open a world of possibilities with their versatility and occasion-flexibility, especially those that have a healthier form of buzz like adaptogenic, hemp or cannabis-infused. 


Fall is Cider season


  • The world of cider is undergoing a refreshing and needed evolution.  While summer 2023 showcased myriad exciting options for enthusiasts, fall protends even more as we’re in APPLE PICKING SEASON, because who doesn’t love apple picking and pairing it with a nice cider.  A recent Washington Post article highlights the rise of innovative cider trends, including the growing popularity of fruit-forward, botanical-infused, and barrel-aged ciders that offer a unique twist on the traditional apple beverage. However, one standout trend that’s turning heads this season is the emergence of functional-infused ciders. Among these, Malus, a cannabis-infused cider, is making waves. This exciting addition to the cider landscape combines the crisp, refreshing qualities of cider with the emerging interest in functional and health-conscious beverages. As cider enthusiasts continue to explore new horizons, it’s clear that the industry is on the cusp of a dynamic and flavorful transformation.


With ongoing opportunities for consumers and brands alike, Harmony Craft Beverages offers a suite of services to support no-, low-, functional and infused beverages as they navigate this complicated landscape.

Please reach out to [email protected] for more information on how we can support your beverage brand.

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