IT will come as no great surprise to anyone that demand for low and no-alcohol drinks in bars and restaurants continues to climb.
Stricter drink driving laws introduced at the tail end of 2014 coupled with increasingly health-conscious consumers are behind much of the growth.
But there is also reckoned to be a definite seasonal spike.
Matt Dudley of Kopparberg said low and no-alcohol alternatives are “more important than ever for the on-trade operator”, adding that customers not drinking alcohol are typically greeted “with very few drinks options at the bar”.
Therefore, he reckons alcohol-free alternatives “are increasingly becoming a must-stock”.
“Operators should consider the most popular drinks categories within their business and ensure they stock an alcohol-free alternative to ensure they not only meet the needs of those customers that choose not to drink alcohol, but also maximise the profit opportunities that premium alcohol-free alternatives afford,” he said.
Alan Hay of Tennent’s took a similar stance.
It’s important to stock non and low ABV alternatives to beers and wines.
He reckons that, whether customers are watching their health or taking up the role of designated driver, many are looking for a range of low and no-alcohol options.
“Although soft drinks will always be a popular choice for those not drinking, it won’t always be the preferred option,” he said.
“It’s important to stock non and low-ABV alternatives to beer and wines for those still looking for the taste of something alcoholic.
“Designated drivers should not be forgotten about just because they’re not having a drink.”
Andrew Turner, director of wine for Eisberg Alcohol Free Wine, also stressed the importance of catering for those who choose not to drink alcohol.
“With strict drink driving laws in place, it is especially important that we cater for the designated driver in Scotland, helping them to still feel included in the occasion – especially during the summer months when people are socialising more frequently,” he said.
Turner took the view that alcohol-free wine “provides a more grown up and low calorie choice for non-drinkers”.
“Just because you aren’t drinking alcohol, it doesn’t mean you have to be restricted to sugary pop or fruit juices,” he said.
Stock a range of flavours – there’s no sure-fire way to predict changing tastes so, as an operator, your best bet is variety. But don’t overdo it – customers don’t respond well to too much choice.
Get soft drinks on the menu – by knowing what’s available to them, customers can be encouraged to try something new.
Keep an eye on emerging trends – although consumer behaviour can transform quickly, it pays to keep abreast of the latest summer drinks trends. Allow this knowledge to shape what you stock: a shift towards healthier habits has been key in 2017, and this will ramp up during the summer months.
Sophisticated packaging – if you want to drive purchase of zero alcohol drinks give the carefully-designed, mature products pride of place.
Supplied by Vimto Out of Home.
Low and no-alcohol beer is also an important consideration this summer, according to Stephan Kofler, sales and marketing director of Krombacher UK.
He reckons it will “continue to be an area of growth, especially as more consumers stop or cut down on the amount of alcohol they drink”; and he said low-alcohol pils and weizen beers in particular “have flourished” in recent times.
“We’re expecting big things over the coming months as these beers are prime examples of low or no-alcohol beers that can provide plenty of flavour and character,” he added.
Alongside low and no-alcohol beers, ciders and wines, soft drinks remain a vital category for on-trade outlets.
Russell Goldman of Britvic said summer is an “important time for the category because as the temperature rises, so do soft drinks sales”.
Echoing this view, Nick Yates of Vimto Out of Home said that this time of year is a “key time to boost soft drinks sales”.
Yates explained that, with many people choosing to lower their alcohol intake, and the promise of (occasional) sunny weather, it’s important that operators ensure their summer drinks range includes a strong soft drinks offer.
So what should licensees be stocking this summer?
Yates told SLTN that a “considered” range is important.
While there’s “no magic [number]” when it comes to choosing how many low and no-alcohol drinks to stock, he reckons “it’s important to provide enough variety to suit the taste preferences of a range of consumers, including healthy options for those who want them”.
There’s no denying that increased consumer interest in healthy living is impacting the industry.
“A good product range will always strike the balance between old and new,” he said.
Similarly, Goldman of Britvic said the fact more people are focusing on their health has impacted on the category.
Citing a recent report by Mintel, which found that 70% of adults think it’s important to keep a close eye on sugar consumption, Goldman said: “There’s no denying that the increased consumer interest in healthy living is continuing to have a huge impact on the industry.
“Add the introduction of the Soft Drinks Levy in 2018 to the equation and it’s evident that operators need to make sure they have a range of low and no-sugar options in their soft drinks offering to meet consumers’ needs and nudge them in the right direction to making healthier choices.”
And not all consumers are looking for simple soft drinks this summer.
Graeme Broom, wine development manager at Wine Importers, said mocktails offer a “great opportunity to excite non-drinking customers” and can offer “greater margin and spend for the outlet”.
He advised licensees offering mocktails this summer to keep it simple.
“An outlet doesn’t need an additional multitude of fruit juices; it’s about the blend, presentation and the twist,” added Broom.
Taking a similar stance, Yates of Vimto Out of Home reckons that mocktails are a worthy addition to a venue’s low and no-alcohol summer drinks list. And he suggested offering a twist by making them with frozen slush.
“For outlets keen to try something different that is tasty and easy to make, they provide the perfect solution,” he said.
Regardless of the size or depth of an outlet’s low and no-alcohol range, ensuring it’s properly promoted is key to boosting sales.
“The easiest way for operators to boost the profile of their range is to have clear signage in their venues, but many venues are looking for the more subtle approach,” said Kofler.
“Blackboards with clear information on healthier drinks and food are always helpful but menus have a lot more importance. Showcasing low-alcohol options whether that be beers, wines or mocktails always works in getting consumers to try something new.”