Founders and best friends Sean Goldsmith and Trevor Wolfe both noticed the benefits of better sleep, the ability to deal with stress, improved energy and weight management while taking a break from alcohol in 2018. But, early on, Goldsmith said, “I was missing complex, delicious and adult drinks to enjoy while out with friends or at dinner, and I started digging into the nonalcoholic space.”
Goldsmith and Wolfe started a blog at thezeroproof.com, with product reviews, interviews and city guides for nondrinkers.
The Zero Proof started gaining traction, but the pair noticed there were many interesting brands in Europe that weren’t available in the U.S. “So, we started importing them,” Goldsmith said. “We now work with Gnista from Sweden, Ish from Denmark and Wilfred’s from the U.K.”
In December 2020, they started selling the imported brands online. The company outgrew its first warehouse space in west Midtown within the first six months, and already is near capacity in a larger space. The warehouse is full of pallets of nonalcoholic wine and spirits, shipped directly to consumers, as well as to wine shops, markets, hotels and restaurants.
For Goldsmith, it’s not about discouraging people from drinking. Rather, the category attracts consumers mindful of their health and wellness, but who still want something complex and adult to enjoy, whether they are looking to cut back for a night, a month, or a lifetime.
This previously uncharted market has grown 33%, to $331 million in the past year, according to data from Nielsen, with a 315% increase in online sales.
Innovation is a part of this growth, as standards have been raised and the quality of nonalcoholic wines and spirits has improved. “There is now a proliferation of choice and more interesting flavors, high quality and technique that help grow the market,” Goldsmith said.
This time last year, the Zero Proof had just gotten started, so this is its first real Dry January. Goldsmith’s advice is to take this opportunity to dive into a new category of beverages. “If you haven’t done it before, don’t think of it as subtracting,” he said. “And, if you find something you like, work it into your regular routine.”
Replace your Wednesday night glass of wine with a nonalcoholic sparkling, such as Chateau de Ish, or one of Acid League’s Proxies. Chateau de Ish sparkling rosé recently garnered a top spot in a New York Times tasting of nonalcoholic wines, Goldsmith noted. The Proxies are funky, complex and “for somebody who’s up for some exploration, and ready to be challenged,” he said.
Want a margarita? Try making one with Gnista wormwood. “It’s a super complex nonalcoholic spirit from Sweden that has citrus, herbs and spice, and it’s salty,” Goldsmith said. And, he and I agree that Ritual is one of the best tequila alternatives out there today, with a hint of vegetal heat and a weighted body that adds to the mouthfeel.
For a gin and tonic, Goldsmith recommended Ginish by Ish, mixed with Fever Tree tonic. For an Old-Fashioned: Spiritless 74.
And, if you want to mix some nonalcoholic beer into your Dry January routine, Athletic Brewing is Goldsmith’s favorite — he recommended trying the Upside Dawn golden brew and Run Wild IPA.
The Zero Proof is poised to launch additional brands, too. But, Goldsmith said, “we don’t want to be stretched too thin; that’s why we focus on the best.”
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