An Okanagan business that exclusively makes non-alcoholic wine – the only one of its kind in Canada – has seen exponential growth over the past year as demand in that beverage category has grown at home and abroad.
ONES+, a Summerland-based winery, started selling one-per-cent alcoholic wine with no added sugar last fall using B.C. grapes, and in less than a year, the company said demand has surpassed expectations.
“We produced 1,000 litres at first as a trial to test if there was any interest in it and it was sold out instantly. We then increased the production to 5,000 litres and then 10,000 litres, and both times it was sold out almost instantly as well,” said Chris Pagliocchini, co-founder of ONES. In B.C., anything with less than one per cent alcohol is considered “non-alcoholic.”
“We’re making investments into trying to ramp up production just to keep up with the pace of demand.”
The interest in non-alcoholic wine seen among Canadians, which make up ONES’ main target market, is in line with the rise in interest globally. According to Fact.MR data, the global non-alcoholic wine market stands at US$2 billion (around CAD$2.6 billion) and is expected to reach US $5.2 billion (around CAD$6.9 billion) by 2033 with an annual growth rate of 10 per cent.
More than one-fifth of Canadians said they’ve purchased and consumed non-alcoholic wine, and more than one third are interested in trying it in the future, according to a 2023 survey carried out by Narrative Research.
“We’re just seeing the category really exploding … in B.C., nationally and internationally,” said Vancouver-based wine consultant and writer Kurtis Kolt.
Kolt said he believes the growth is driven by two major factors – a bigger focus for people on personal wellness, and the demand to have quality beverages to enjoy when people don’t feel like consuming alcohol.
“As for someone like me, when I’m not drinking, that doesn’t mean that I just want to have water or a simple soda. I want something that’s interesting, that has a story behind it, something that is worthy of thoughts and enjoyment and that a lot of effort has been put into,” added Kolt.
Removing alcohol doesn’t make wine cheaper. On the contrary, the production process most non-alcoholic winemakers adopt makes their wines pricier than the traditional alcoholic beverage.
“We go through the same process as making the premium wine but before we bottle it, we pass it through a filter to remove the alcohol and still keep the rest of the taste,” explained Pagliocchini.
During the process of fermentation, sugars from wine grapes are broken down and converted by yeast into alcohol (ethanol) and carbon dioxide, so the removal of alcohol also removes the sugar in the drink – although some non-alcoholic wine makers will add sugar afterwards.
Though products on the market are not able to exactly replicate a traditional wine’s taste, Kolt said he has seen significant improvement in the quality of available non-alcoholic wine options. As the market becomes more competitive, consumers’ expectations are only going to get higher, he said.
“Frankly, what we had in the market was pretty sad, we did not have a lot of quality products. But that has really, really changed over the last few years, quite quickly,” he said. “We’re just seeing so much more quality coming from domestic producers, and then international producers as well.”
Kolt said he expects to see more startups and traditional winemakers attracted to the market in the coming years because of its strong projected growth. Competition, he added, will create a higher barrier to entry for producers as consumers’ tastes and expectations mature.
“It’s becoming quickly a very crowded field. I don’t think it’ll be good enough for people who are looking to enter the category to quickly do a non-alcoholic wine regardless of quality,” he said.
“Those entering the category will have to put a lot more effort and quality into it. Because now the consumer knows that you can get good-quality non-alcoholic wine, they’re not going to settle for something that is subpar.”