In 2022, ANA Drinks, Adelaide’s first dedicated non-alcoholic bottle shop opened its doors and was welcomed with open arms by the local community. Fast forward two years, and the continuous rising costs of goods, utilities and wages has forced the business to announce its imminent closure.

Faced by cost-of-living pressures and challenging trading conditions, Founder Lisa Fraser says that despite increasing demand for non-alcoholic drinks, it doesn’t outweigh the other factors that many small businesses are currently battling.

To name a few of those challenges, Fraser says: “this includes increases of between five and 15 per cent (in some cases more) in rent, utilities, insurances, wages and cost of goods.

“Combined with the cost-of-living pressures on households, people are more cautious or unable to spend as much. It makes it very hard as a business, and for most businesses right now, to continue trading sustainably. The decision to close ANA Drinks was based solely on these factors.”

But it hasn’t always been so challenging. Looking back on the opening, Fraser remembers an overwhelming response from the local community.

“On one hand we had so many people from the South Australian community that were excited about us opening, and curious about the range of non-alcoholic products we were going to stock. On the other hand, we also saw a lot of scepticisim online of people asking, ‘what’s the point?’.”

As consumers became more educated about the non-alcoholic category, and turned to alcohol-free beers, wines and spirits as a way of reducing their intake or substituting altogether, the bottle shop developed a strong following.

“Australia’s social fabric is built on catching up for a drink and the non-alcoholic drinks space allows for everyone to feel inclusive despite their reasons for not wanting to drink,” added Fraser.

“The following years at the shop were very positive, we saw so many people come through the store and online. A lot of regulars and very good word of mouth. We held regular tastings of various non-alcoholic beers, wines and spirits, allowing people that had never tried non-alcoholic drinks before to sample and get to know the differences and similarities to the more traditional stuff.

“Once people understand the differences in taste and mouthfeel, it’s really easy to start to enjoy it for what it is.”

Along with the day-to-day highlights and the opportunity to recruit new consumers to the category, Fraser also enjoyed some more memorable achievements.

“[There were] so many firsts for Adelaide, including working with Adelaide City Council to run South Australia’s first non-alcoholic street pop up, we also hosted the first non-alcoholic wine dinner, paired with South Australian non-alcoholic wines and beers, and being involved in non-alcoholic wine judging,” says Fraser.

“Hearing how much of a positive impact we had on many different people over the years and their stories is probably the most heartwarming of them all. My favourite times in the store was always hosting the tastings and having chats with everyone on where it’s from, the taste profile, the back stories and also seeing the reactions as people tried the different non-alcoholic products.”

Despite the closure of the shop, Fraser is adamant that the no- and low-alcohol (NoLo) category is here to stay. Through the ups and downs, she has learnt a significant amount about the category, and predicts that it will become an expected part of social situations and hospitality culture over the next few years.

“A better selection across beers, wines and spirits will become more widely available and I think people will really adopt moderate and responsible drinking as part of their social outings,” she says.

“I was at Bread & Bone, an amazing little burger joint in Adelaide, a few weeks back and both tables next to us were drinking non-alcoholic beers. Some restaurants we supplied in Adelaide reported 20-30 per cent of the drinks being ordered were now non-alcoholic. The non-alcoholic space will continue to grow and develop better quality products that more and more people will enjoy in the coming years.”

ANA Drinks opens its doors for the last time today, and despite the difficult hand she and many other small businesses have been dealt, Fraser wishes the best for other liquor retailers who are also doing it tough.

Her parting words of advice are: “Watch your cash flow, invest into your key lines and do tastings more regularly. Give people a reason to come back more often. I’d also say get a healthy range of non-alcoholic drinks in, people are always looking for unique products.”

ANA Drinks will close its doors this afternoon, and Fraser extends her thanks to the entire Adelaide community for its support over the last few years.

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