Craft pizza and a non-alcoholic beverage, a perfect pairing
Non-alcoholic beverages have come a long way from the Shirley Temple days. Today’s alcohol-free refreshment menus are as diverse, creative and artisan as pizza menus.
Whether you have a takeout location or dine-in restaurant with a full bar, you can take advantage of the new wave of beverage consumers.
First, let’s take a look at what’s happening in the beverage industry. IBIS World reports that pre capita soft drink consumption has fallen ever since it peaked in the late 1990s. With no other options, this leaves these consumers to order just water and a restaurant with a missed sales opportunity.
The National Restaurant Association has been on the pulse of the trend with its What’s Hot list. NRA highlights Kombucha, aqua frescas and boba and bubble teas as trending non-alcoholic beverages.
In fact, sparkling water is among the fastest growing segments of the beverage industry, according to the State of the Beverage Industry. It’s a $3.46 billion market, the report details.
Sugary drinks have received a bad reputation in recent years, driving more consumers to look for alternatives. Packaged Facts released its U.S. Beverage Market Outlook 2020: Grocery Shopping & Personal Consumption in the Coronavirus Era. According to the release, “Sugar’s increasingly negative image due to its impact on rising diabetes rates and childhood obesity has hurt sales of sugary beverages, especially sodas, juices, and RTD sports drinks and teas. People who want to reduce their sugar intake typically do not want sugar-free products but instead those with less sugar or those sweetened with natural, non-sugar ingredients. Public health recommendations and tax legislations are helping drive the move toward reduced or “no/less added” sugar claims. New product activity has surged for reduced sugar varieties of beverages, with manufacturers using natural sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit, real fruit, honey and erythritol.”
Armed with this information, a rush of products has hit the market, appealing to differing tastes.
Seltzers and sparkling waters might just be the simplest way to add diversity to your beverage menu. Some restaurants may choose to install carbonated water machines to be able to create their own flavored sparkling water and craft sodas. For many operators though, adding seltzers and sparkling water is handled through their established beverage distributor or restaurant wholesaler.
Fermented teas have risen in popularity, kombucha specifically. This sweet and sour drink is made from usually black or green tea, sugar and a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast). It might just be a fitting drink for pizza. Kombucha can be made or is commercially available. In many markets, there are local kombucha purveyors allowing you to apply the “buy local” philosophy to your beverage menu.
Another easily accessible option is adding ginger beer. Often mistaken for ginger ale, this non-alcoholic drink is made from fermenting ginger and brewed with water and sugar. It has a much stronger flavor than ginger ale.
Then, there are always low-sugar juices from a variety of fruits, from apple and cranberry to Pomegranate and the popular Coconut water.
Don’t Call It a Mocktail
Restaurants are finding huge opportunities in non-alcoholic craft cocktails. But it’s time to move away from calling them mocktails. The term can be off-putting and be a hinderance instead of a sales motivator. Come up with a term that matches your brand.
Take Proof Artisan Pizza & Pasta in Tucson, Arizona, for instance. General Manager Valarie Alvarez saw an opportunity to create innovative beverages without alcohol that align with Proof’s brand. At Proof, non-alcoholic beverages are called Zero Proof Libations.
“The zero-proof cocktail menu came about after, as a bar manager, I noticed so many grimaces when people were only given the usual non-alcoholic choices at their table: water, tea or soda,” Alvarez says. I took inspiration from aqua frescas (a local favorite ‘fresh water’ with fruits and other ingredients added) and craft cocktails to come up with a few refreshing, delicious and beautiful drinks for anyone to enjoy.
“They are made to be paired with pretty much anything on the menu,” she continues. “The menu is seasonal, so we use in season fruits, bitters from the bar, local gelatos and such to have different options available. You can currently get a root beer float to go with your pepperoni pizza, a tiki agenda (ginger, bitters, lemon and soda) to go with your Figlet or white pie. Some drinks are blended, some muddled, all delicious and sourced as locally as possible — something we strive for as a local small business.”
Alvarez offers tips to pizzerias looking to add non-alcoholic cocktails to the menu. “Have fun with it and do as much R&D as possible,” she says. “Talk to your liquor reps. Mine all had great input and were helpful in finding fun bitters, cool garnishes and yummy things to add in. Get input from others too. I had regulars try ours, brought my daughter and friends in to try them too, and was pregnant at the time so I had some additional feedback there as well. We’ve made it a seasonal menu as well, allowing our bartenders to get creative, feel proud of the menu with their contributions, and not get bored with the same drinks over and over.”
If you are a pizzeria with a full bar, adding alcohol-free cocktails can be as simple as adding some of the liquor alternatives. There are now alcohol-free bourbon, tequila, gin and others that you can stock. This gives you the opportunity to offer old-school virgin standards like Sangria, Bellini, Pina Colada and Mojito. But don’t stop there, get creative and take inspiration from your unique craft cocktails, local favorites and regional hot cocktails to create a zero-proof menu that will appeal to everyone.
Craft non-alcoholic drinks warrant a higher price. But with that, make sure that your presentation is on point. Think about how you would present the boozy version. Glassware is key.
The market for non-alcoholic beverages is far larger than just children looking to emulate their parents’ beverage choices. Pregnant women, non-drinkers and consumers that just do not want alcohol at that moment but want the taste or social aspects of having cocktails without the effects. To go a step further, you can also market your unique non-alcoholic beverage menu during Dry January, Sober July, Dry Holiday and other local, regional and national alcohol-free trends.
DENISE GREER is Executive Editor at Pizza Today.