Sparkling water with lemon in a mason jar.

flickr: Debbie R

For the health-conscious drinker, a simple shot of spirit, light lager or glass of wine just won't cut it.

Fun Without Guilt: 4 Beverages for the Health-Conscious Drinker

The brands that are able to tap into this duel-yet-opposite needs will carve out new market share.

What's the worst part of a night out drinking with friends, family or colleagues? For most, the dreaded hangover. And while approximately 25–30 percent of consumers report to have “never been hungover,” a 2015 medical study suggests that is simply not true. And with hangovers often lasting up to 24 hours according to the Mayo Clinic, the fact remains that many consumers enjoy the drink, but not the experience the next day. There is a ying and a yang: the fun and the ensuing guilt.

But what if it didn't need to be that way? Beverage manufacturers across the country and around the world are trying to flip that equation: All the fun, without the guilt.

There's an emerging subcategory of drinkers, the “health-conscious drinker.” This drinker demands more than their simplistic drinking predecessors, and is looking to balance the social and physiological desires to consume alcohol, with the increasingly important need for health and support of the body and mind. For this drinker, a simple shot of spirit, light lager or glass of wine just won't cut it. The brands that are able to tap into this duel-yet-opposite needs will carve out new market share, and launch a new era of “responsible indulgence.” Here are my three favorites, and I'll include a special new brand at the end.

KYLA Hard Kombucha

The company, based out of Hood River, Oregon, has created a delicious, uncompromising beverage product that satisfies the tastebuds and the liver. With only 100 calories, this drink rivals most lagers, yet appeals to a lighter, sweeter flavor profile often preferred by women. KYLA is shelf-stable, gluten-free and vegan, dialed straight into the health trends, and propelling the brand forward. You won't find any lacy bikini ads for this brand, instead they opt for communicating a rich brewing tradition and a low-sugar product. All the fun, without the guilt.

Henry's Hard Sparkling Water

Sparkling water is on fire, with almost $4.5 billion in U.S. sales projected for 2018, according to Statista. This market is set to grow by almost 6 percent, year-over-year through 2023, and Henry's Hard Sparking Water is placing a big bet on this trend. With only 88 calories, this 4.2 percent carbonated water cuts out all the unwanted sugars and carbs found in most substitute products. While still containing alcohol, Henry's has a higher water content than other beverages, keeping consumers hydrated. This ready-to-drink beverage taps into the consumer need for on-the-go alcohol, without the high sugar content; while being laser focused on the growing sparkling water space—a real win-win.

Bad Larry's Hard Coffee

Americans are in a love affair with coffee, with the U.S. retail market reaching $37 billion in 2017. What's more interesting are the trends in gourmet, and the move toward cold-served coffee, including the exploding trend in cold brew. Bad Larry's is betting on this growing trend, combining two of the most popular beverages in America, coffee and alcohol. This combination in flavors has rarely been seen, and to-date not done well in packaged formats. Coffee has also experienced strong publicity for its health benefits, including supporting healthy heart functions and reducing the risk of liver cancer. Between consumers love of coffee, explosion in demand for cold brew and added health benefits, Bad Larry's Hard Coffee will be an interesting new alcoholic beverage to watch, one that taps into multiple consumer needs. So there you have it, three interesting alcoholic beverage products that go beyond the simple drinking occasion and that connect with new, health-conscious consumers demanding more. But if those products don't do it for you, or those IPAs are too delicious to resist, there's a new category of products that might just be your magic bullet.

BONUS: Morning Recovery

While the journey to healthier drinking is being paved, it is a long road ahead. Morning Recovery is leading the way with a type of 'hangover cure'. This beverage is meant to be taken while drinking, and through its expert formulation of vitamins and nutrients, reduce the effects from the night before. This trend is new in the United States, but has been popular in Korea for decades. The brand has recently expanded their operation and are helping customers feel better the next day across the country. While not technically a health-conscious alcoholic beverage, Morning Recovery is a tool in the drinker’s toolbox to enjoy the fun without the dreaded hangover. “We help empower consumers to be their best and wake up the next day without skipping a beat,” says Sisun Lee, Founder of Morning Recovery. “Our products help break down and flush out toxins fast, replenishing lost nutrients so people feel great.”

Tips for Beverage Brands

Tap into multiple needs: Consumers aren't as simplistic as marketers would like, and brands will win by tapping into multiple needs and desires. The brands that don't will fail to gain traction, or lose relevance altogether.

Use creative distribution channels: Consumers are shopping in new areas that once before, and beverages are not only being purchased at the grocery store. Brands that are creative and tap into both their primary and secondary distribution points that already exist for their consumers will see increased revenue and market share.

Tell a better story: Consumers want more than a product, they want a story—and the best brands tell it well. A clever product will get a first sale, a better story will create customers for life. Expert brand story telling is what has made the top Fortune 500 companies see lasting consumer success over decades.

Mike Rosenbaum is the founder of QuenchCo, a boutique beverage growth marketing firm based in San Diego, California. Mike has experience managing some of the world’s largest brands, including Bud Light and Kraft Foods.