Preference for non-alcoholic drinks 'becoming a movement,' says brewery

Breweries on P.E.I. say they are seeing more interest in people wanting non-alcoholic drinks or drinks with low alcohol content. (Stacey Janzer/CBC - image credit)
Breweries on P.E.I. say they are seeing more interest in people wanting non-alcoholic drinks or drinks with low alcohol content. (Stacey Janzer/CBC - image credit)

The co-founder of a non-alcoholic beverage company on Prince Edward Island says he's been seeing a growing interest in people wanting to reduce how much they drink, and it's a trend he expects to continue.

New drinking guidelines by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) were released Tuesday which say even three to six drinks a week increases the risk of developing certain cancers. The guidelines recommend no more than two drinks a week.

Mitch Cobb, CEO of Upstreet Craft Brewing in Charlottetown, said he isn't surprised by these recommendations.

"I think we've known for a long time that alcohol isn't good for us, it isn't good for our health," he said.

Ryan Williams Unbound Media
Ryan Williams Unbound Media

Cobb was spurred to create Libra, a non-alcoholic beverage, after his own experience with wanting to limit how often he drinks.

"After a couple of years of being in the beer industry, it was really sort of starting to take a toll on my health," he said, adding he saw similar sentiments in his colleagues as well.

People choosing to drink less

Since Libra launched in 2020, Cobb said there's been significant interest across the country, and "really strong demand" in the Maritimes.

Cobb said he's seen a trend in people moving away from drinking as often, especially as they get older and start families.

Stacey Janzer/CBC
Stacey Janzer/CBC

"People were just drinking less, but still wanted to have the same sort of social experiences that they were used to having. They just didn't want to wake up the next morning with a headache," he said.

Having a non-alcoholic beverage is all about providing options, Cobb said, whether people choose to drink or not.

"I really think now it's becoming a movement. I think that people are becoming very conscious of their health and wellness," he said, adding he only expects this to continue.

'Surprising' interest in low alcohol options 

For Jared Murphy, co-owner of Lone Oak Brewery, the interest in Noble, one of its low-alcohol beverages, has been unexpected.

The drink has 0.7 per cent of alcohol per serving, considerably lower than the rest of the brewery's current offerings, which all have more than four per cent.

"It's been really surprising to us to see how well the low-alcohol brand has been selling," said Murphy.

Tony Davis/CBC
Tony Davis/CBC

First released as a test to see if the market was there, Murphy said the company is now having trouble keeping up with the demand for Noble, and are looking at expanding.

"I think that more people are becoming conscious about what they're putting into their bodies, they're becoming more conscious about their health," he said.

Islanders should know risks: Dr. Morrison

It's good for the government to provide some guidelines, said Murphy, but ultimately, it's up to people to make their own decisions.

"I think it's information that people can take with them and make their own choices with," he said of the guidelines. "At the end of the day we want people to consume safely, for their safety and for their health."

P.E.I. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said the new guidelines offer evidence-based advice. They come ahead of a provincial alcohol policy forum being held next week and led by Morrison's office.

"I think every Islander has a right to know that all alcohol use is associated with risk, so that they can make better and more informed decisions about their health," she said.

Morrison said past data shows that in one year, there were more than 3,000 emergency room visits and 26 deaths linked to alcohol on P.E.I.