CPG Playbook   //   January 5, 2024

Beverage brands of all kinds are clamoring to stand out during Dry January

As Dry January becomes more popular, brands are finding they have to get more creative with their campaigns to stand out.

According to a January 3 survey by customer experience platform Disqo, about 45% of respondents plan to explore dry or “damp” January — meaning they’ll either abstain from alcohol or cut back on drinks during the month. The report also shows there is an increased interest in trying new alcohol alternatives. The percentage of consumers who said they felt excited about trying new NA products doubled from June 2023, to 16% of respondents. Per Disqo, some of the uptick can also be attributed to new year resolutions like Dry January, the growing sober-curious interest especially among Gen Z is giving beverage brands more reason to compete in the space.

A few years ago, when Dry January was still a nascent concept in the mainstream, nonalcoholic brands primarily focused on attracting new customers with discounts while educating people on the burgeoning category. Now, as Dry January has gotten more popular, a greater variety of beverage brands are looking to get in on the craze, ranging from cannabis beverage brands to alcohol conglomerates to soda startups. They are looking to stand out this Dry January with giveaways, new product launches and by offering creative ways to help people meet their Dry January goals.

This Dry January, more established alcohol brands took an opportunity to introduce a new product. Blue Moon launched its first non-alcoholic beer, a new take on its flagship Belgian White beer, which was first announced last summer. The move is part of parent company Molson Coors’ ongoing rebrand plans to help grow the business. Blue Moon’s rollout comes on the heels of White Claw’s latest announcement, introducing a 0% alcohol version of its popular spiked seltzer. 

Meanwhile, other brands are teaming up to stand out. Non-alcoholic shop Boisson partnered with fridge maker Rocco on a giveaway campaign. The two companies are stocking every Rocco fridge purchased between January 1 and January 31 with a free pack of NA drinks, including brands like Ghia and Giesen Wines. Even cannabis brands are getting in on the trend, with beverage brand Cann promoting its THC-infused drinks to sober-curious Dry January participants.

Stephen Jepson, evp of advertising effectiveness at Disqo, described January as “the NA industry’s Super Bowl.” 

“Beverage brands looking to win consumers have an opportunity to gain lasting impact,” Jepson said. “But it will be important to break through the clutter and ensure their advertising messages reach interested consumers and resonate with their motivations.”

That’s where unique marketing tactics come in.

Hop Wtr, a non-alcoholic sparkling hop water, is testing various awareness strategies. Founder and CEO Jordan Bass said that with so many brands participating in Dry January, it’s become a crowded month to stand out with promotions. “As a brand, we see our sales grow 2x to 4x from December to January, and that’s become the new baseline for growth through the year,” he said. This makes January an important acceleration period for NA brands. With the hopes of acquiring new customers, Hop Wtr recently launched the Double Hopped SKU, a stronger take on its sparkling hop water.

Last Dry January, Hop Wtr ran a “lock up your booze” campaign, in which people could apply to receive lockers from the company to put away their home bar alcohol until February 1. This year, the company wants to continue its streak of playful campaigns that help encourage customers to complete the monthlong challenge.

“Through our research we found that 41% of consumers participate in Dry January, but only 15% complete it,” Bass said. “But we want it to be lighthearted and fun, [Dry January] shouldn’t be a chore people dread,” Bass said. For 2024, Hop Wtr is launching a nationwide giveaway and social media campaign in partnership with professional hypnotist Amy Koford. In December, thousands of fans of the brand signed up for a chance to win a session with Koford, who will hypnotize them into completing Dry January successfully. Twelve people will be selected as winners of these sessions, which will kick off on January 17.  

Hop Wtr’s creative campaign is indicative of the great pains brands are taking to stand out this Dry January, particularly as greater variety of beverage brands are creating campaigns that speak to the monthlong challenge.

Prebiotic soda brand Olipop hasn’t traditionally marketed itself to people looking for alcohol alternatives, even though the soda is naturally non-alcoholic. But last year, the company started seeing people pouring their Olipop into wine glasses, which spurred the viral “wine glass Wednesday” trend on TikTok. The brand also experienced a boost from the “sleepy girl mocktail” recipe, made popular by Gracie Norton on TikTok last March, which used Olipop’s lemon lime soda.

Now, the company wants to build on that organic virality, according to Steven Vigilante, director of growth and partnerships at Olipop. This year, the company decided to lean more intentionally into Dry January by promoting its naturally alcohol-free sodas. Vigilante said the brand wanted to go beyond posting mocktail recipes on social, and instead launched a chatbot that gives people recipes based on the Olipop flavors and other ingredients they have on hand. The digital “soda sommelier,” named Olivier, generates one of 20 mocktail recipes and then directs them to purchase products based on the drink.

“People ask all the time if we have mocktail recipes, they want to garnish their soda to make it more Instagrammable,” Vigilante said. 

Another tie-in includes having creator partners post their own Olipop mocktail recipes throughout the month. At the same time, Olipop has also partnered with Instacart on a Dry January delivery component, in which Olipop is giving away 5,000 cans throughout the month. People can log into the Instacart app every Friday to receive two cans with their order.

Vigilante said Olipop is trying to strike the balance of using occasions like Dry January to position itself as an alcohol substitute beverage, while still sticking with its better-for-you soda proposition. “We’re not going to be running paid ads against these videos,” he said. “We’re leaning into it, but we don’t want to call ourselves a sober-curious brand.”