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A look at zero-proof cocktails and produce

As a generation, millennials are drinking less and moving away from traditional alcoholic beverages. So what does this mean for the world of produce? This was the question at yesterday's Learning Lounge Session "Foodservice–Zero to 100 Proof" at CPMA Fresh Week in Vancouver, a session moderated by Colleen Goto of Freshpoint Vancouver and featured a panel of industry experts working in foodservice.

For starters, where did the "mocktail" trend come from? "It was post-COVID," said Brandon Drew, national beverage coordinator for Chop Steakhouse and Bar. "At that point, many people were changing how they looked and treated their bodies." It wasn't a non-existent market going into the pandemic–mocktails did exist in foodservice before then. However, 2021-2022 saw a sizable shift particularly in this market.

"The younger demographic just isn't consuming alcohol in the same way," said Kevin Brownlee, regional operations manager for Cactus Club Cafe, adding that post-pandemic, many people who'd indulged in alcohol during the pandemic chose that time to "right" their drinking choices away from alcohol.

So what does that mean for foodservice? Mostly the greater choice that's becoming available makes it easier for consumers to make that choice–and thus, becomes more welcoming to them. "A lot of people are choosing not to drink whether it's for religion or personal choice and we must make space for them," said Brownlee.

Left to right: Goto, Drew, Ma, Brownlee

Foodservice and the mocktail
It also looks to be a good fit for foodservice in one sense. "It actually may be even easier to pair food with non-alcoholic beverages because you don't have to deal with the alcohol content–acidity and things like that," said Roger Ma, executive chef, Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar.

In turn, this may mean expanding opportunities for produce. Ma for instance welcomes supplier sites that have clickable options for produce items which makes it easier for the end user to add ingredients to their baskets, complete with educational information about those ingredients.

"Very often we get inspiration from what's brought to us," said Drew. "A lot of times we have to seek out the products and items and I'd rather someone come by with it so I can see it and talk about it. I'd like to hear more from the supplier side about things that are fresh, local, and available to try."

In the end, Brownlee added that it's an interesting time for the zero-proof cocktail, and…it feels familiar. "I think of it a lot like the Beyond Meat burger when it was created for people who didn't want a hamburger, but wanted something like that," he said. "We're in this era where we're trying to determine what the non-alcoholic drink looks and tastes like."

For more information:
Canadian Produce Marketing Association
Tel.: +1 (613) 226-4187