The co-owner of Perth’s first alcohol-free drinks store, Free Spirit Drinks Co, says she’s proud to be helping Australians make healthier choices during COVID-19.
Health and wellness coach Sara Rusbatch launched Free Spirit Drink Co in March 2021, following research by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare that showed drinking increased by almost 20% for women and 10% for men during lockdowns last year.
Rusbatch said while this may be good for sales it inevitably will result in scrutiny that is not good for the industry. A qualified ‘Grey Area Drinking’ counsellor, she coaches (mostly) women around the country on how to change their relationship with alcohol. ‘Grey Area Drinking’ is defined as the space between social drinking and alcoholism.
“We are all drinking more alcohol during this pandemic because of the stress of juggling home schooling, working from home, and extra housework,” she said.
“We need to help people find ways of reducing that stress other than using alcohol.”
Rusbatch (above) said the reaction in Perth to Free Spirit Drinks Co has been “incredible”.
“We have outgrown our warehouse three times and have gone from initially 12 products in March to over 136 in September,” she said. “We have a loyal and consistent regular customer base as well as new people discovering us every day. We are seeing bars and restaurants starting to approach us too, which is brilliant as our customers really want to see good quality alcohol free drinks when they are out.”
Rusbatch said all drinks are selling really well on the site, but the beers and sparklings are probably most popular.
“The RTD cans of G&T and Amalfi Spritz also sell really well,” she noted. “In terms of trends, we are seeing a much bigger uptake from the younger demographic than we had originally anticipated. We see lots of young people are choosing alcohol free drinks because of health, weight, exercise and generally being more mindful of their alcohol consumption. We also see a large uptake from older clients who have been advised by doctors to drink less due to health reasons.
“More and more people are joining in alcohol free challenges such as ‘Dry July’ and ‘Sober October’, but still want alcohol-free drinks to enjoy when they are socialising or for a special occasion.”