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Calumet business offers alternatives to alcoholic beverages

CALUMET — Finding alternatives to alcoholic beverages has been rapidly increasing over the past couple of years and what started as a trend has become what is now a multi-billion-dollar industry in the U.S.

According to a November 2021 Business Insider report by Allana Ashtar, non-alcoholic beverage sales increased 33% to $331 million in the last year, according to Nielsen.

IWSR, a world leader in drinks market analysis, puts the dollar figure much higher, stating that interest in low/no alcohol products has been growing significantly. The category saw overall volume growth of over 25% in the US market, bringing its total market value to over $2 billion in 2021.

And while the trend is growing rapidly around the world, it is now available locally.

Of The Water, located at 335 Fifth Street, in Calumet, offers a wide variety of alternatives to alcoholic beverages, offering products from coffee and plant-based food to non-alcoholic beer, wine, and even non-alcoholic whiskey.

Michael Mallow, founder of the company, said he opened his store at the beginning of 2022.

“People don’t drink to be included,” said Mallow, “like pregnant women, or even 18-year-olds, so you can have social drinking and maybe a better atmosphere of showing your kids what it’s like to drink in public and that type of thing.”

Mallow offers alternatives to drinks such as brandy, rum and whiskey which, he said, are excellent.

“It’s actually distilled the same way as bourbon or tequilas,” he said, “but through reverse osmosis, they take the alcohol out.”

There may be a smidgeon of alcohol left, he said, but for the most part, it has been removed but the flavor profile remains.

But, are alcohol-free drinks completely free from alcohol?

IWSR defines no-alcohol products as wine, spirits, beer/cider, and RTDs with an alcohol content below 0.5% ABV. The category also includes alcohol-adjacent products, which are alcohol replacements below 0.05% ABV. Low-alcohol products have an alcohol content above 0.5% ABV, but lower than normal for the category. For example, low-alcohol beers have alcohol volumes between 0.5-3.5%.

Most spirits range from 35 – 45% alcohol by volume (ABV), said the Sing Gin distillery company located in Yorkshire, U.K. Liqueurs tend to range from 15 – 30% ABV. They’re not as strong as spirits because the base spirit is blended with sugary fruit syrups and sweetened, which dilutes the alcohol. Ales typically start at 3.5% ABV, but some stronger lagers can have as much as 6 or 7% ABV.

“The alcohol breath is gone,” he said, “and I find it is a more pleasant drink. You don’t drink as much so you still got your wits about you.”

With non-alcoholic drinks, people can enjoy the company of others without feeling they have to watch themselves, he said, “or maybe I do want to watch myself and this is an alternative.”

Mallow said that there is not a viable selection of N.A. drinks in restaurants and bars, so Of The Water attempts to fill that void. Mallow is right.

London-based Distilled Ventures published the report of two 2018 studies that found that when it comes to non-alcoholic drinks options, many consumers are underserved even amidst strong demand. Availability is growing strongly but is still somewhat limited. While innovative bars and restaurants are taking full advantage and providing their customers with a myriad of choices, many have yet to create a non-alcoholic menu, and full adoption is still a way off.”

Mallow, aware of that, said he has approached local establishments and asked if they offered NA drinks. He did not find any.

Mallow said he does not consume alcohol as a personal choice, but he had difficulty finding non-alcoholic beverages. He decided to see what other regions were doing.

“So, I went out West, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and the Midwest,” he said. “I searched out all these products, and found that we don’t have any selection here and the distributors are not investing.”

The industry, however, is growing at about 30% per year, said Mallow. He suggested to distributors they might want to become involved.

“They have a pretty good market without it,” Mallow said with a laugh.

Mallow said he was exploring the idea of opening a bar for non-alcoholic beverage consumption, which would involve finding someone to mix what he calls mocktails, but COVID prevented that, and the establishment he operated at the time did not have the space.

He set one up outside last summer, he said, and offered coffee, tea and NA drinks and gave them away because he said, if people do not try it, they cannot judge it.

“But if you look at it and I say, “No alcohol,” he said, “Not going there.” In the Copper Country, however, Mallow, appears to be ahead of the curve.

In June 2022, USA Today reported according to Greg Cohen, spokesperson for IWSR, offerings of NA beverages and low alcohol beverages are growing.

“Total volume of no- and low-alcohol products in the US grew by about +27% in 2021,” Cohen said in a text message. “The category is forecasted to grow by about +23% compound annual growth rate volume 2022-2026.”

Of The Water is prepared to meet the demand.

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