Canada’s Partake rides US no-alcohol wave with 30% sales surge

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Calgary-based leader in the non-alcoholic beer space, Partake Brewing, is expanding across the border thanks to strong demand, as it seeks to extend its US footprint.

In December 2020, the company launched its range of Pale, IPA, Blonde, Red, and Dark lines, plus limited seasonal editions into the US in a handful of states: Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington.

The reception to its low-carb craft beers – which have a calorie count of just 10-30 per can – has given Partake the confidence to widen distribution to include southern California, Colorado, Connecticut, eastern Pennsylvania, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Nevada, Texas, Virginia, Washington DC – and nationally online.

Ted Fleming, Partake Brewing’s founder and CEO said: “We are proud to work with both our retail and distribution partners to redefine the non-alcoholic category. After an accelerated year of sales growth, the addition of these important US markets gives us an opportunity to meet the growing interest and demand for non-alcoholic offerings.”

No-alcohol growth to continue

That demand is not expected to ease anytime soon. Earlier this year, a report released by London-based wine and spirits analyst IWSR pointed to volumes of no-alcohol and low-alcohol products growing 31% by 2024. The buoyant no/low category is dominated by the no/low beer and cider category at 92% of the market although other drinks are entering the segment.

IWSR notes what it calls “a moderation trend that is sweeping across key global markets” which is bringing with it increased demand for reduced alcohol, or alcohol-free drinks. Much of it is fuelled by younger generations who are drinking less and less, particularly teenagers, referred to as ‘Generation Dry’. While Germany is the largest no/low alcohol market by volume, it contracted by -5% last year, due to the reliance of the no/low beer segment in the on-trade at bars and restaurants which were temporarily knocked back due to forced closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile the next largest market, the US, surged by 30% in 2020 and Partake Brewing is riding that wave, supported by a nine-strong beverage distribution network.

At one of those distributors, Penn Beer, president and COO Nick Funchion said: “We’re seeing many consumers opting to make healthier choices and seeking a non-alcoholic beer option to complement their current alcohol consumption habits.”

Partake now in 5,000 US retail locations

Partake – which picked up $4 million in a Series A funding round in September led by CircleUp Growth Partners – is now available in more than 5,000 US retail locations including Total Wine, Whole Foods Pacific Northwest, Wegmans, BevMo!, Ralphs, Vons, and Pavilions.

The company was self-funded since launching three years ago, but with the new funding Partake positioned itself to lead the renaissance of the non-alcoholic beer category. Partake believes that consumers are driving that revival as they change why, when and how they drink and socialise. Joining CircleUp in the brand’s financing were Export Development Canada (EDC), Natural Products Canada, McLean & Associates, and Barrel Ventures.

The Canadian brewer was established in 2017 after Fleming had a diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease which led him to give up alcohol and turn, instead, to non-alcoholic beer to maintain his social connections and interactions. When those products did not meet his exacting standards for taste he decided to brew his own range of craft beers.

According to CircleUp, Fleming was onto something. “Helio, our proprietary technology platform, flagged that Partake excels on taste, variety and nutritionals – the top three purchase criteria in the non-alcoholic beer category,” said Trevor Rechnitz, a partner at CircleUp Growth Partners. “Partake’s five varieties, 10 calories and 2 grams of carbs per can, and award-winning taste combine to differentiate it from the other emerging players.”

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