Skip to main content

Dry January introduces Canadians to non-alcoholic beverage brands

Alcohol-free beverage makers say the yearly practice attracts new customers

The holidays are over and we’re at the start of a new year, when Canadians typically reevaluate their alcohol consumption habits. Some strive for a Dry January – abstaining from wines, beers and spirits – and others a Damp January, reducing the amount they consume versus December. 

And grocers and non-alcoholic beverages are partnering for the occasion, which is focused on the health benefits of going alcohol-free. But if consumers miss Dry January or want to make a longer commitment, the Canadian Cancer Society has also launched its ninth annual online fundraiser, Dry February, effectively extending the promotional period. 

Advertisement - article continues below
Genna Woolston
Genna Woolston. Photography courtesy Silver Swallow

Breaking up with booze

Silver Swallow, a champagne-inspired non-alcoholic kombucha, and Whole Foods Market – which recently started carrying the brand nationally – will team up on a promotion. Called “Breaking Up With Booze,” it links post-holiday sobriety with Valentine’s Day and includes a special non-alcoholic cocktail recipe, with ingredients available at the grocer.  

READ: Is Canada sobering up?

“The holidays are really big for us as a sparkling alternative to champagne, but a new crowd comes in the new year looking to reset their drinking habits,” says Genna Woolston, CEO and co-founder of Ottawa-based Silver Swallow. “And so, it becomes a good time to engage in conversation with consumers about the challenges of giving up alcohol and how we can help.”

Woolston says Dry January has picked up steam due to revised drinking guidelines released last year from the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction. Based on a Health Canada-funded report about the health risks of alcohol intake, the guidelines now recommend no more than two drinks per week, down from the prior recommendation of 10.  

silver swallow
Photography courtesy Silver Swallow

“We’ve seen a lot of people on social media referencing the guidelines as their reason for cutting back post-holiday and looking at alternatives to get the taste they like from alcohol brands,” says Woolston. 

In expanding Silver Swallow across Whole Foods nationwide, Woolston also credits its recent partnership with UNFI Canada

Libra co-founders Deb Coleman, Mike Hogan and Mitch Cobb.
Libra co-founders Deb Coleman, Mike Hogan and Mitch Cobb. Photography courtesy Libra Beverage Co.

P.E.I.-based Libra Beverage Co., which debuted their non-alcoholic craft beer in 2020, including a pale ale, a stout and a cherry sour, recently launched nationally in Sobeys.

“For us, this time is really about getting trial from new consumers who haven’t had an opportunity to discover non-alcoholic products,” says Mitch Cobb, co-founder and CEO of the brand. “And while January used to be far and away our biggest sales month, and is still big, we’re seeing sales growth in other months, too, as the more people that take part in Dry January, the more people integrate non-alcoholic beer and other beverages into their life year-round.” 

READ: Libra co-founders on what's next for the non-alcoholic craft beer brand

Revenue for Canada’s non-alcoholic beer market is forecasted to top $171 million this year and grow annually by 5.65% until 2028, according to Statista

Libra is on track to sell 80,000 cases this year, up from 37,000 in 2023, as it secures more grocery accounts. The brand will also be launching into Loblaw’s market division and Superstores across Ontario and Western Canada.

Advertisement - article continues below
libra pale ale
Photography courtesy Libra Beverage Co.

“One of the barriers of no- or low-alcohol products has been the lack of availability in major grocery chains, and so we’ve been educating grocery store managers about the category’s growth,” says Cobb. “Now we’re seeing the category really take hold, with grocery retailers adding more products.” 

He is also happy to see grocers getting more forward-thinking with merchandising. 

“Non-alcoholic beer has traditionally been between the Grenadine and water, but Loblaw’s is going to be putting us in the beer coolers with the ABV beer,” he says. “And I think that’s exactly where it should be, because the line between a non-alcoholic beer and alcoholic beer is going to blur. It will become, ‘OK, you want a beer, Do you want 0% alcohol? Or do you want ABV of 5%?’ Consumers will be looking for it in the same place.”  

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds