For over 30 years BevZero has blazed a trail in the ‘nolo’ sphere. Lucy Shaw caught up with its business development director, Irem Eren, to find out how the market-leading company is fine-tuning its offering to cater to an ever-growing global audience
Driven by the health and wellness movement, the ‘no and low’ alcohol category is big business now, and is poised for significant growth in 2023. According to the IWSR, the value of the ‘nolo’ sector surpassed US$11 billion last year, cementing its status as a key category within the drinks industry that all producers should be taking seriously. Zero ABV drinks are leading the charge within the ‘nolo’ sphere, and are set to account for 90% of its volume growth between now and 2026. And while beer and cider are spearheading the category’s growth, wine is catching up, as improvements in technology are helping to create ever more sophisticated alcohol-free expressions that don’t scrimp on flavour.
At the forefront of innovation on the dealcoholisation front is BevZero, which has over 30 years of experience in the no and low sector, having been founded by American entrepreneur Tony Dann in 1991. The company has grown to become a world leader in providing its clients with high quality low and no-alcohol products through its patented dealcoholisation equipment and vacuum distillation technology. Working with a team of dedicated winemakers, brewers, distillers and food scientists, the California-based firm also has offices in Spain and South Africa, allowing it to cover all corners of the wine world and serve as a one-stop shop for drinks brands of all sizes seeking to bottle their big idea.
With the ‘nolo’ category having exploded in popularity since the pandemic, business at BevZero is booming. “The growth of the 0% drinks, BevZero’s 30 years of expertise in the ‘nolo’ sector, and a unique range of services enabling clients to go from an idea to a product on the shelf is a great recipe for a booming business,” says business development director Irem Eren, who scooped the IWSC’s Emerging Talent in Wine award last year. BevZero has enjoyed a surge in demand for its services and dealcoholisation equipment around the world recently, with interest peaking in the traditional wine production hubs of Australia, France, Germany, Spain, South Africa and the US. “Our service business has increased by 30% in last two years,” Eren reveals. “Wineries all over the world are seeking to work with us thanks to our global presence and know-how”.
In addition to those seeking to create characterful alcohol-free wines, demand is also high for alcohol adjustments due to global warming, particularly from Australia, Spain and the US due to recent sizzling summers. Since its inception, BevZero has worked tirelessly to fine-tune its tech in order to create 0% ABV wines that are full of flavour and character, rather than bland imitations of the real deal. “We use low temperature vacuum distillation technology, which allows for the gentlest removal of alcohol while preserving nearly 100% of the aromas and flavours, that can be added back to the de-alcoholised fraction to retain the original characteristics of the wine in the finished product,” Eren explains.
Through its gentle, low temperature approach, BevZero is able to preserve and re-use the original volatile compounds that are removed during the dealcoholisation process, creating expressive alcohol-free wines. It’s a complex task that has taken time to master. “Creating a quality alcohol-free wine is challenging,” Eren admits. “Following the removal of the alcohol, the resulting product is very different to the starting wine – flaws are concentrated, sweetness is removed, acidity increased and mouthfeel minimised. Understanding how to build back balance and flavour in the finished product is critical.” For wineries seeking to add an alcohol-free wine to their range, BevZero’s White Label programme is a fast-track service for time-poor clients keen to make a splash in the market. “We offer a range of zero ABV wines, from white and red to rosé and sparkling, both bottled and canned,” says Eren. “We also work with clients on private label products, creating a unique offering from scratch.”
On the product development front, BevZero is happy to put in the hard yards, and is responsible for everything from sourcing the wine and conceptualising the product to the dealcoholisation and bottling. In addition to wine, the firm also creates cannabis, hemp and CBD-infused drinks, which are proving popular in the US. With the ‘nolo’ category evolving at speed, Eren believes its future lies in functional drinks with added health benefits. “This will be the next stage of the movement as consumers seek out plant-based drinks that improve everything from cognitive function to relaxation,” she predicts. While beer, spirits and cider have blazed a trail in the ‘nolo’ sphere, Eren believes AF wine is due its moment in the sun and will become an increasingly important player within the category.
“All wineries should be seeking to add an alcohol-free expression to their range. It’s a great opportunity for the wine category to innovate and reinvent itself, and zero ABV line extensions are a brilliant way for wineries to reach new consumer groups and increase their sales,” says Eren, who believes bulk producers have a golden opportunity to create alcohol-free products from their surplus stock. While Germany leads the way as the biggest ‘nolo’ market in the world, the US is set to dominate the alcohol-free wine market. “North America is anticipated to be the most important non-alcoholic wine market in the world with a growth rate of over 8% between now and 2026,” says Eren. “The wine sector has been slower than beer and cider to catch up with ‘nolo’ trends as it’s a very traditional industry, but younger consumers are thirsty for innovation and are creating a demand for quality alcohol-free wines.”
As a growing number of consumers seek to curb their alcohol consumption, the ‘nolo’ movement is now a global phenomenon, and while education is needed on drinking occasions and where to stock the products, increased investment and advances in tech are leading to a refined alcohol-free offering that doesn’t compromise on flavour, character or the theatre of the serve. “The days of Stoptober and Dry January are over – consumers want a year-round possibility of moderating alcohol consumption,” says Eren. “Nolo isn’t a trend anymore; it’s a category that’s here to stay, and its consumers cross over many demographics.” Wineries that don’t factor in an alcohol-free expression into their ranges are in danger of missing out on the boom. For those that are keen to experiment, BevZero is on hand to help every step of the way, from brainstorm to bottle.
BevZero is the exclusive sponsor of the IWSC's Low & No Producer Trophy. Read more about the pioneering work they do in the Low & No sector here.