British Columbia

Vancouver can't get enough of canned vodka-soda

Canned vodka-sodas are a made-in-B.C. success story.

Low-calorie, sugar-free alcopop has rocketed up the sales chart this summer

Canned vodka-soda is a made-in-B.C. success story. (@nudevodkasoda/Instagram and @nutrlvodka/Instagram)

If you attended a barbeque, potluck, surreptitious beach bonfire, or bachelorette in Vancouver this summer, you might have encountered a hip, young person sipping from a white can with a cool, stylized font on it.

In a summer of smokeheat waves, and E. coli-infested beaches, the city is finding relief in canned vodka sodas, particularly two made-in-B.C. brands offering low-calorie, five-per-cent alcohol beverages stripped of sugar, sweeteners, and artificial colours.

In health-conscious Vancouver, the taste of the summer is effectively an alcohol-infused version of LaCroix, a sparkling-water phenomenon sweeping the continent.

Julius Makarewicz, 28, is the CEO of Nude Vodka Soda, which arrived on the market in the summer of 2017. He said he and co-founder Jerin Mece wanted a cleaner, simpler drink.

"The reason we started the company was because we found everything on shelves had a little too much sugar or we found that beers weighed us down a little bit too much," Makarewicz said.

"We called it Nude because it is nude of sugar, nude of sweetener. It's also what we're about: nude of ego, nude of all the bullshit."

Another brand, Nütrl Vodka Soda, offers a similar blended drink product (also introduced in the summer of 2017) made from vodka distilled at its Delta, B.C. distillery with no preservatives. 

Turns out less is exactly what Vancouver wanted more of.

This summer, the drinks rocketed up the B.C. Liquor Distribution's refreshment beverage chart with Nude occupying the number three spot, and Nü​trl in fifth place in terms of volume sold.

"The reaction from retailers and customers are more than we could ever imagine. We extremely grateful for our success so far. We think it's so cool," Makarewicz said.

The canned vodka-sodas' success is part of a broader consumer trend.

Sugar consumption has become the new bogeyman in healthy eating discourse, and sugary drinks are among the first to get dumped.

Canadians are increasingly looking for low-sugar options for beverages, according to Joel Gregoire, a food and drink analyst with Mintel Research, a marketing research firm.

"When asked which health-related attributes are important to them when purchasing a beverage, the most important consideration among consumers is "low/no sugar" (46 per cent), followed by "all natural" (34 per cent) and "low calorie" (34 per cent)," Gregoire said in a statement.

But is the low-sugar sacrifice worth it?

Twitter, the place for healthy debate, remains divided.

With files from Zahra Premji


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