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Tapping into the growing business of alcohol-free 'spirits'

Some businesses are tapping into the growing number of people who are searching for an alternative to alcohol, beyond sparkling water or soda.
At the Better Rhodes warehouse in Connecticut, they’re now gearing up for what they expect to be a busy holiday season, ahead of the so-called “Dry January,” where people forego drinking after New Year’s.
An industry group that tracks alcohol sales found that, in the sphere of low and alcohol-free, sales were up 4.5% in 2020 from the prior year. By 2024, they estimate an explosive growth, with U.S. sales climbing by more than 31%.
While on vacation with his family, Better Rhodes founder Chris Becker went in search of alcohol-free beer and discovered a whole new business opportunity.
Better Rhodes recently expanded their business beyond online sales of alcohol-free beverages. They now run a tasting room in Connecticut, where customers can try their alcohol-free spirits before they buy.
Posted at 2:32 PM, Oct 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-18 14:32:01-04

MADISON, Conn. — No matter the life’s journey, the company Better Rhodes is pouring it on and pouring it out, in the hopes customers might make a detour to them.

“As the name of the company suggests, there's different roads and journeys that people are on,” said Better Rhodes founder Chris Becker.

That includes people who are searching for an alternative to alcohol, beyond sparkling water or soda, a conundrum Becker encountered for himself. While on vacation with his family, he went in search of alcohol-free beer and discovered a whole new business opportunity.

“It started with trying to solve a problem for myself,” he said. “So, I came up with the idea of maybe there's other people like me that would want to sample and taste for this space that maybe they didn't even know existed.”

Two years later, and it’s turned into part in-person tasting room and part online sales. Better Rhodes is all in on alcohol-free beers, wines and other spirits from around the world.

“We have the largest selection of alcohol-free products in North America,” Becker said.

Sales of alcohol-free beers, wines, and other beverages are growing.

An industry group that tracks alcohol sales found that, in the sphere of low and alcohol-free, sales were up 4.5% in 2020 from the prior year. By 2024, they estimate explosive growth, with U.S. sales climbing by more than 31%.

“There's a growth in the kind of the movement about mindful drinking or sober curious,” Becker said.

Those in the business of traditional alcoholic beverages are taking notice.

“You're starting to see the traditional winemakers and the traditional, you know, of California, Europe, Germany—all the places where you associate excellent wine, they're all starting to make alcohol-free wine,” said Andrew Chartier of Better Rhodes.

At the Better Rhodes warehouse in Connecticut, they’re now gearing up for what they expect to be a busy holiday season, ahead of the so-called “Dry January,” where people forego drinking after New Year’s.

“We have over 250 products that people can choose from,” Chartier said.

Okay, but how does it taste? I decided to give an alcohol-free margarita a try. It had a kick to it.

“A lot of our tequila alternatives have a spice mixed in, like a cayenne pepper or some kind of spicy pepper, to give it that real kick that you would get from a traditionally made tequila,” Chartier said.

It’s the kind of taste test that prompted Better Rhodes to expand and open a tasting room.

“The growth over the past year has been pretty phenomenal,” Becker said.

It’s a trajectory they’re hoping to continue.