Shops in Vancouver meet growing demand for alcohol-free drinks

Shops in Vancouver meet growing demand for alcohol-free drinks

British Columbia

Wines, whiskey and even beers are available … without the buzz. Vancouver-based store Mocktails and sober snack bar The Drive Canteen are among the businesses meeting the growing demand for non-alcoholic drinks.

Experts say young people are drinking less alcohol than earlier generations

Arrthy Thayaparan · CBC News

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Vancouver businesses offer alcohol-free options

Imagine drinking wine, whiskey or beer without getting a hangover … Vancouver-based businesses Mocktails and The Drive Canteen offer a variety of non-alcoholic drinks to meet a growing demand.

The recently launched Mocktails store and The Drive Canteen, a sober snack bar, are among the Vancouver businesses responding to a growing demand for non-alcoholic beverages.

Mocktails owner Angela Hansen said her “troubled relationship with alcohol” inspired her to stop drinking a year ago and look for alternative options. 

She found a variety of non-alcoholic drinks available online, but few places with a physical presence in the city and so in mid-March, she opened Mocktails, which offers zero-proof and dealcoholized wines, spirits and other drinks. 

“We need a place dedicated to this,” she said. “Whether you’re sober-curious, choose not to drink or don’t want to drink as much, it doesn’t mean that you want to miss out on the socialization and the experiences that everyone else is having.”

Hansen and experts in the field said an increased awareness regarding the health impacts of alcohol has created a shift in demand for non-alcoholic products and specialized stores. 

Consumer data provider Statista said the non-alcoholic beer market in Canada is expected to be worth about $400 million in revenue this year and is seen growing annually by 5 per cent. Meanwhile, the United States saw $565 million in sales for non-alcoholic beer, wine and spirits at off-premise locations like grocery stores last year, up 35 per cent compared with 2022, according to market research firm Nielsen IQ.

A woman with blonde hair and wearing a black dress is smiling. Behind her are shelves and a glass refrigerator lined with non-alcoholic drinks

Angela Hansen decided to open Mocktails, a non-alcoholic liquor store, after struggling to find a store with a large variety of options in Vancouver. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Victoria-based Adam Sherk is a senior scientist and special policy advisor with the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA), an Ottawa-based, non-governmental organization that focuses on providing national leadership on substance use.

Sherk said younger generations are “drinking less than ever before.”

“That generation of youth is kind of leading the cultural change around alcohol,” he said. 

“My guess would be that alcohol use will, on a per-person basis, go down quite modestly over time.”

In January 2023, the CCSA released guidelines stating no amount of alcohol is safe to consume and it recommended no more than two drinks a week. Sherk, who contributed to the Guidance on Alcohol and Health report, thinks that prompted many Canadians to rethink their health choices. 

He said Canadians consume an average of 13.3 drinks a week and close to 10 litres a year – nearly twice as much as the annual global average – which can lead to a higher risk of developing several types of cancer, liver cirrhosis and heart disease. 

A man in a blue hoodie is pointing into a glass refrigerator and speaking to a woman in a blue shirt and holding a striped brown bag.

Doug Stephen, owner of The Drive Canteen, says last year’s alcohol consumption guidelines report brought in a range of new customers looking to incorporate non-alcoholic drinks into their lifestyles. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Doug Stephen, co-owner of The Drive Canteen, said the report’s numbers were shocking and led to a shift in the crowd coming into his store in Vancouver. 

“We’ve seen a lot of people who still drink, but want to drink a lot less and … mix in some non-alcoholic zero proof stuff with their regular drinking habits,” he said, also noting a rise in younger customers with “a very different view on alcohol.”

“We’re going to see more and more proliferation of this [industry], especially as people want to talk about things like mental health and physical health.”

Stephen said when he opened the snack bar in 2021 following his journey with sobriety, there were no other stores around carrying a mix of non-alcoholic drinks.

The Drive Canteen has a variety of unique snacks, convenience store treats, and a catalog of non-alcoholic beverages, which is now nearly 50 per cent of its monthly sales, he said. 

“We initially started with 100 to 200 square feet … we are now almost at 1,000 square feet dedicated to non-alcoholic [drinks] and as each week passes gradually more and more

$1,300.00
$450.00
take over.”

A man in a brown hoodie is holding a clear boottle in his hands and looking down. In front of him are shelves lined with non-alcoholic drinks

Mocktails, a non-alcoholic liquor store, recently opened in Vancouver. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

For customer Charlene Prevatt, 42, the variety of non-alcoholic options allow her to drink “for the flavour of alcohol, not just for the feeling.”

“I love the ability to pair my food with my drinks, but also having something that I don’t have to worry about the next day,” she said, adding typical liquor stores have “maybe four [options] on a good day.”

Hansen said customers come in from as far away as Nanaimo, about 110 kilometres north of Victoria on Vancouver Island, and that he hopes non-alcoholic stores and drinks will become commonplace.

“I’m not here to try and convert anybody. I just want to educate people and give them options other than alcohol,” she said.

“I think that opens it for other people to be more receptive to doing that for themselves and looking maybe at their own relationship with alcohol.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Arrthy Thayaparan is an associate producer at CBC Vancouver. She’s interested in health, environment, and community stories. You can contact her at arrthy.thayaparan@cbc.ca.

    With files from Ioanna Roumeliotis, Brenda Witmer and Yvette Brend

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