MADD taps into billion-dollar non-alcoholic drink industry

Rolling out across the Sobeys chain, the virgin drinks are meant to deter drunk driving, while supporting the mothers against it.

MADD Virgin Drinks will be rolled out across Sobeys grocery stores by the end of February, offering partygoers a sophisticated-looking alternative to alcoholic beverages, says Brian Bolshin, CEO and president, MADD Virgin Drinks.

Designed by Cundari, the sleek-looking line – which includes alcohol-free Chardonnay, Merlot, Pina Coladas and beer – has been in high demand since its December launch at a handful of Sobeys Urban Fresh locations. Bolshin says advertising will be dependent on store distribution and that there isn’t yet a set promotional time frame in place.

“We’re big supporters [of MADD], so we thought, wouldn’t it be great if, instead of just telling people not to drink and drive, [we could] give people an alternative that was a little more fun and a little more relevant than a bottle of water or a can of coke,” Bolshin says.

While original conceived for the altruistic purpose of supporting Mothers Against Drunk Driving – 10% of sales will be directed towards the organization – Bolshin said they discovered a huge opportunity in the alcohol-free drink market.

“Unbeknownst to most of us, in North America the industry well exceeds a billion dollars,” he says. “A billion. With a B!”

But while it’s a huge industry, Bolshin says many people can’t actually name a brand of non-alcoholic, or reduced alcohol beverages.

“It just goes to show you the demand is there, in spite of the fact that there are no premium brands.”

Leveraging the MADD logo, the team at Cundari created an upscale and elegant design in a league that could compete with wine bottles in liquor stores.

“In the wine business, you compete with your label on the shelf, because 95% of the brands out there don’t advertise. Their advertising is their shelf presence,” Bolshin explains.

While the main focus is to support the “Don’t drink and drive” message, he adds there has been a lot of interest from retailers because of the wide demographic appeal the drinks offer. There is a growing segment of the population who simply don’t drink, including baby-boomers who want to reduce their alcohol intake, pregnant women, people who can’t mix alcohol and their prescription medication, and ethnic groups who don’t drink for religious or cultural reasons.

“Thirty years ago, nobody would say ‘Well I don’t drink.’ People were critical of that,” he says. “Nowadays, lots of people don’t drink or they know they’re going to be driving and they want an alternative. So the demand is there at the consumer level across all categories.”