Feb 28, 2024 - News

"Dry February" and the rise of non-alcoholic options in Nashville

Data: NIQ; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: NIQ; Chart: Axios Visuals

"Dry January" is expanding its turf.

  • Google searches for "Dry February" have ratcheted up this month in Nashville and beyond.

Why it matters: The ongoing interest in the annual booze-free challenge highlights a change in the way Americans think about alcohol, Axios' Carly Mallenbaum writes.

By the numbers: In Nashville, sales of non-alcoholic beer in the first four weeks of January surged to $282,235 in 2024 compared to $71,096 in 2020.

  • Over the same period nationally, sales of non-alcoholic beer hit $42.7 million this year, up from $13.5 million four years ago.

The big picture: Regular beer sales have been fairly flat across the U.S. while non-alcoholic beer is on the rise, according to NIQ, which tracks buying behavior.

Zoom in: The local retail scene has expanded to reflect that growing sector.

Southern Grist Brewing Co. has put a premium on making non-alcoholic beers with its self-described "innovative, weird, experimental" approach.

  • "It's about being inclusive and recognizing there are times you want a beer but cannot have or do not want the effects of alcohol," the brewery says of its approach to NA beverages.

Killjoy, a Nashville-based shop dedicated to non-alcoholic spirits, opened last April in Wedgewood-Houston. The company also hosts regular alcohol-free events.

  • Founder Stephanie Styll says she's seen customers grow increasingly excited about non-alcoholic spirits over the last year.

What she's saying: "I wondered if after January our sales would tank," Styll tells Axios. "So far they haven't. I think people are keeping it going."

  • Styll says her customer base includes folks who are sober full-time as well as people who want an occasional alternative to alcohol.

State of play: Younger customers, in particular, are interested in the health benefits of going alcohol-free, she says.

  • That's true nationwide. Only 62% of adults under 35 say they drink, down from 72% two decades ago, according to the latest Gallup data.

Flashback: Styll started Killjoy with help from her husband and brother-in-law after she got sober. She sees it as a way to celebrate the wide array of fun, inventive and complex zero-proof beverages on the market.

  • "Going to a party and just drinking water was boring and made me feel left out," she says. "I wanted to participate in the ritual of enjoying a sophisticated beverage, and alcohol alternatives made that interesting and fun."
  • "People just have no clue that they have these options."

Killjoy sells non-alcoholic beers, wines and spirits. There are regular tastings to show off its offerings, including one this weekend.

  • Styll says a community has formed around their events, which include booze-free happy hours and a book club.
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