Local brewer looks to tap into non-alcoholic market, targets vending machines

Alcohol-free beer and wine on campus could change social attitudes



In a bid to capitalize on the booming market for non-alcoholic beverages, one Vancouver brewer is hoping to tap into a new market — vending machines in campuses across the province.

The idea came to Lane Matkovich, owner of Nonny Beer in Vancouver, who has seen the demand for non-alcoholic alternatives continue to rise, particularly among young adults seeking healthier lifestyle choices.

According to a 2022 survey by Future Market Insights, “The global non-alcoholic beer market is expected to surpass a valuation of US$43.6 billion by 2032, expanding at a 7.8 per cent CAGR.”

“We’re definitely interested in exploring vending machines. We’d love to keep the beer occasion alive,” he said. “We want people to start experiencing in different contexts. It doesn’t have to just be at your local pub, but it can be that refreshing beverage after you know class at college.”

The idea of selling non-alcoholic beer and wine isn’t entirely new. Back in October, Guinness introduced its new non-alcoholic Guinness 0 in a handful of pop-up vending machines across the country, including at Waterfront Station in Vancouver.

Matkovich said it could help change attitudes toward non-alcoholic drinks.

“By putting these non-alcoholic options in vending machines, it … helps with breaking the stigma around people thoughtfully choosing,” he said.

Different options with health a focus

Doug Stephen, owner of The Drive Canteen in Vancouver, is planning to have his own non-alcoholic drink released in the coming weeks. While he says non-alcoholic drinks are often more healthy than soft drinks often offered in vending machines,

“I think if it’s in a space where kids are of the age that they’re going to be able to drink alcohol anyway, having the non-alcoholic options available closer isn’t a bad thing,” he said. “Especially when you consider the implications.”

He said adult style kombuchas, kefir waters and lacto fermented non-alcoholic beers are healthier than many drinks offered in vending machines.

“You’re getting something that’s full flavor and that pack packs some flavor and is better than a soda pop,” he said.

That said, Stephen worries it could be a slippery slope.

“There’s the potential for it to be a gateway product,” he said.

Alcoholic beverages are no longer available on campus at Langara. The vending machines offer Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Canada Dry, Pepsi, Nestea, Starbucks coffee, Gatorade, Red Bull and Monster energy drinks, and even milk.

Perception will be a hurdle to overcome

Manavi Duggal, a second-year health science student at Langara College, said it would be strange to have non-alcoholic beer and wine in the vending machines on campus.

“It would be just promoting the alcoholic drinks in some way or the other,” she said, adding that some of the drinks offered are unhealthy.

“We already have drinks like Monster, we already have drinks like Red Bull in college.”

Langara staff member Kim Rathbone, who works in the IT department, said it can be old-fashioned to judge a student for drinking a non-alcoholic beer on campus.
“It’s not going to have any impact on students’ impairment, so, from that perspective it’s no big deal,” she said. “There is the risk that your instructors might judge you differently if they see you drinking a non-alcoholic beverage like that in the daytime.”

Angela Hansen, owner of Mocktails, was quick to jump on the idea.

“I think there’s so many different mocktails that I think would go over well in the vending machine,” she said.

“I think that the students at colleges would probably really appreciate having something other than pop and juice and the regular things that you’re used to getting out of vending machines.”

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