William Sitwell Criticizes Marketing of Non-Alcoholic Drinks as "Wine" or "Gin"

Prominent food critic slams marketing of alcohol-free drinks as "wine" or "gin," arguing it bastardizes traditional beverages. But the non-alcoholic market is booming, posing challenges for the industry.

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Quadri Adejumo
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William Sitwell Criticizes Marketing of Non-Alcoholic Drinks as "Wine" or "Gin"

William Sitwell Criticizes Marketing of Non-Alcoholic Drinks as "Wine" or "Gin"

In a recent critique, prominent food critic William Sitwell has taken aim at the growing trend of marketing alcohol-free beverages as "wine" or "gin." Sitwell argues that removing the alcohol from these drinks fundamentally alters their essence and the experience they provide to consumers.

Sitwell suggests that labeling non-alcoholic products as "wine" or "gin" is misleading and goes against the traditional understanding of these beverages. He notes that wine, beer, cider, and gin are defined by the presence of alcohol, and creating non-alcoholic versions is akin to "bastardising" them.

The critic points to Italy's stance against this practice, which he believes aligns with the country's efforts to preserve the purity of their food and drink culture. Sitwell expresses his preference for simply drinking water when thirsty and opting for wine or gin when desiring an alcoholic beverage, rather than trying the "nonsenses" of non-alcoholic alternatives.

Why this matters: Sitwell's critique highlights a growing debate around the marketing and labeling of non-alcoholic beverages as traditional alcoholic drinks. As the demand for alcohol-free options increases, the food and beverage industry faces questions about maintaining the integrity and authenticity of established drink categories.

Despite Sitwell's criticism, the non-alcoholic wine and beer market is estimated to grow 7% annually between 2023 and 2032, with non-alcoholic beers now making up over 85% of non-alcoholic beverage sales. Major brands like Anheuser-Busch InBev have seen revenue growth in their non-alcoholic beer portfolio, including Budweiser Zero and Stella Artois 0.0, even as overall beer sales dropped in North America.

Local craft brewers and bartenders are also responding to the growing demand, with some offering their own non-alcoholic products and cocktails. However, Anheuser-Busch InBev has not yet met its 2025 target of having 20% of its global beer volume be non- and low-alcohol, with less than 7% currently in that category.

As Sitwell's critique sparks further discussion, the future of how the food and beverage industry will navigate the challenges of marketing and labeling non-alcoholic drinks while respecting the traditions and expectations associated with established alcoholic beverage categories is uncertain.

Key Takeaways

  • Prominent critic William Sitwell criticizes marketing non-alcoholic drinks as "wine" or "gin".
  • Sitwell argues removing alcohol fundamentally alters the essence of these traditional beverages.
  • Italy bans this practice to preserve food and drink culture, while Sitwell prefers water or alcohol.
  • Non-alcoholic beer market grows 7% annually, but Anheuser-Busch InBev falls short of 20% target.
  • Debate continues on marketing non-alcoholic drinks while respecting traditions of alcoholic categories.