Business ideas for 2020: Non-alcoholic fun
From alcohol-free drinks to competitive socialising, discover why 2020 could be the year you launch a business dedicated to non-alcoholic fun
What do you think of when you think about British culture? Fish and chips, the Royal Family, and a pint down the pub may all spring to mind.
But we’ve identified a trend that could change that last part: non-alcoholic fun. Going alcohol-free for dedicated months are well-established campaigns in the UK, but the decision to ditch drinking on a longer term basis is growing. This means there’s a potential business opportunity to cater to this market, offering sober alternatives to traditional pub culture and other (often heavily drinking-oriented) leisure activities.
There are a number of factors that can mean people don’t drink alcohol – whether it’s a decision to lead a teetotal lifestyle, religious, ethical, or medical reasons, or as part of the ‘sober curious’ movement who abstain from alcohol for a period of time.
And, in turn, this abstinence calls for ways to have fun without alcohol. While there have always been people who don’t drink, and the concept itself isn’t new (we identified starting a low or no alcohol beer brand as an emerging business idea back in 2017), the idea to focus on non-alcoholic fun more widely offers a fresh perspective on this trend.
From alcohol-free beverages to non-alcohol based experiences, let’s explore why 2020 could be the ideal year to join this industry…
Why is non-alcoholic fun a good business idea?
With initiatives like Dry January and Go Sober for October now commonplace in the UK, alcohol-free alternatives are becoming increasingly popular. But leading a non-alcoholic lifestyle doesn’t have to be limited to certain months of the year.
According to Mintel’s 2019 UK British Lifestyles Report, 20% of UK adults say they don’t drink alcohol, while 47% of people who buy or drink alcohol have reduced or limited their alcohol consumption in the past year.
And in July 2019, Sainsbury’s opened a pop-up pub with a twist: it only served no and low alcohol drinks, making it the first-of-its-kind in the UK.
In fact, the amount of revenue in the UK non-alcoholic drinks market in 2019 amounts to £424.75 per person, according to data published by Statista.
Yet the industry extends beyond the bar: there is the potential for experiences to offer fun activities where the focus isn’t on drinking. For example, the rise of competitive socialising, whereby venues offer group-based social and leisure activities like darts, mini golf, or escape rooms, shows that there’s strong interest in experience-based entertainment.
Non-alcoholic fun: Business opportunities
It’s almost impossible to discuss the non-alcoholic drinks sector in the UK without mentioning Seedlip, a small British business that broke onto the scene in 2015 as the first in the world to offer a distilled, non-alcoholic spirit.
But coming up for five years later (and with Seedlip stocked in 20 cities around the world and more than 250 restaurants), it’s no longer the new kid on the block – and the time is ripe for challengers to emerge.
However, when searching for these types of drinks, it’s apparent that they are often sparkling or fizzy drinks – so entrepreneurs looking to enter the industry could shake things up by offering non-alcoholic drinks without the bubbles.
But there are other areas of the industry to explore, outside of actually creating drinks. With an increasing focus on alcohol-free beverages and activities at work events, as highlighted in this Financial Times article, running a corporate events company that specialises in non-alcoholic fun could be a way of tapping into this trend.
Yet, people are interested in alcohol-free socialising outside of working hours too. Club Soda ran the first Mindful Drinking Festival in 2017, with the next festival scheduled for January 2020 in London. But what about outside of the capital? Launching alcohol-free festivals in other locations around the country could be a potential business opportunity.
While the competitive socialising sector is growing, it’s worth noting that many of the major players in this area, such as Bounce (ping pong) and Flight Club (social darts), do serve alcohol at their venues. This could be an opportunity for potential startup founders to launch a completely alcohol-free competitive leisure business.
But would-be entrepreneurs should be aware that such businesses may not be able to compete with the more established brands in this sector, in terms of offering drinks packages and other related add-ons, like food and catering.
Instead, non-alcoholic fun experiences would need to focus on activities which traditionally forbid drinking, like driving or go-karting, for example.
Non-alcoholic fun: Business opportunities
- Alcohol-free drinks
- Non-alcoholic drinking/leisure festival
- Non-alcoholic distillery
- Competitive socialising company
- Alcohol-free corporate events company
Non-alcoholic fun: Insider opinion
Bill Read, co-founder of Genie Living Drinks, comments: “More people are turning away from alcohol, drinking less, or stopping drinking altogether. This is the case across generations, although Gen Y’s drinking habits get the most publicity.
“The hospitality industry is catching up with this idea, and it’s actually very exciting if you embrace it. What works for a room full of people who will be blind drunk by the end of the night doesn’t work if they’re not drinking. So you need to be creative and deliver products that these consumers deserve.
“Although people are drinking less (or not at all), they still want to go out, have fun, and be treated like a grown-up when they drink. Forward-thinking venues are putting on some creative and exciting events, like experiential dinners. People are seeing that a night out can actually be more fun and exciting if you’re not drinking – at least you are guaranteed to remember it!
“The landscape of non-alcohol fun will be a successful one, but it’s very early days. Supply side is strong: alcohol-free drinks have come a long way in a short time, and there are some great products out there. But the landscape will be completely different in five years time. The on trade is catching up, and you see the more forward-thinking venues seeking to be more than just a place to come and drink alcohol. The successful ones will be the ones that can adapt to cater across the occasion.”
Lisa Desforges, strategy director at B&B studio, advises: “From kombuchas and craft sodas to zero-proof spirits and aperitifs, the growing market for sophisticated, yet alcohol-free drinks is changing the shape of both the soft drinks and alcohol categories.
“While early entrants to the market have relied on a frame of reference – it’s like gin, but not alcoholic; it’s like tea, but fermented; it’s like pop, but not as sweet – consumers are now ready for brands to focus on what they are, not what they’re not.
“As alcohol alternatives becomes a category in its own right, brands need to focus on the positive, offering a point of difference that goes beyond alcohol-free. This is a clear opportunity for startups over established drinks businesses, as they’re not tied to the conventions of the industry and have free rein to be innovative and disruptive in this fast-moving and as yet undefined space.”