Growing demand for lower alcohol

Christmas and January could be popular times for ‘low and no’ products

wine and beer on bar
There are now low and no-alcohol versions of a range of drinks, including beer and wine.

THE coming weeks are likely to be among the busiest of the year for many of Scotland’s licensed premises, bringing a significant spike in drinks sales.

And while alcohol orders often drop off after the indulgence of the festive season, drinks companies reckon one category could prove just as popular well into the new year: low and no.

The growth of the category comes as – and is fuelled by – consumers attempt to cut their alcohol consumption and Andrew Turner, director of wine at Halewood Wines, owner of alcohol-free wine brand, Eisberg, said this “means more than ever people are looking for alternatives to alcohol”.

“According to the Office for National Statistics, one in five adults is now teetotal, which is eight per cent more than ten years ago,” he said.

While this is an argument to stock low and no-alcohol drinks year-round, there’s a particular opportunity in the coming months, said firms.

“More consumers are certainly choosing to stay sober or drink less and we do expect demand for low and no drinks to increase this Christmas compared to last year,” said Alex Carlton, chief executive of Elegantly Spirited, the company behind zero-ABV spirit Stryyk.

“The move towards abstinence is gathering pace among young adults, driven by a multitude of factors, including the rising cost of alcohol, concerns over health, the pressures of social media and ultimately that being drunk no longer fits in with their lifestyle.”

And these concerns are unlikely to end at Christmas, said Carlton.

He added that, while operators should stock low and no-ABV products all year, “they most certainly need to embrace ‘Dry January’”.

This was also advocated by Peter Sandstrom, chief executive at Harviestoun Brewery, who said it can be “good for a bar’s reputation to stock these brands and aids in promoting responsible driving through Christmas and Dry January”.

As with other drinks categories, however, quality is becoming increasingly important in the low and no sector.

“Quality beer creates loyalty and the beer selection needs to deliver,” said Sandstrom.
“If a consumer chooses not to drink for whatever reason, they should have a wide range of quality low and no-alcohol brands to choose from.”

This was supported by Andrew Lawrence, sales and operations director at Molson Coors – which counts the Bavaria 0.0%, Cobra Zero and Palm beers among its portfolio.

He said that operators “need to offer varieties that don’t compromise on taste or quality”.
“There’s been so much innovation in the category, which is great news for publicans,” said Lawrence.

“The key thing is to offer a balanced and broad range of choice in low and no, with something to suit every taste and occasion.”

Selecting the right no or low-alcohol products for a venue can be a challenge, particularly with more appearing on the market – something acknowledged by Stephen Kofler of Krombacher.

He said: “The number of low/no beers now available is astounding, which is a great thing for the category but it makes things a little more challenging for the licensee.

“As with any drinks sector there is good and bad out there, so make sure you try before you buy. ”

“Even better – get some of your customers to blind taste some.”

However, with the category still in many ways in its infancy, there’s no need to dedicate multiple shelves in the fridge to low and no-alcohol drinks, according to Kopparberg brand manager Rosie Fryer.

She said that, although it’s worthwhile to stock non-alcoholic versions of different drinks, consumers are likely to opt for zero-ABV versions of products they are familiar with.

“Operators should stock low and no variants of beer, cider and a spirit and potentially a wine,” said Fryer.

“As the category isn’t large enough yet to constitute multiple variants, provide a small range such as two of the most-popular products for each category.”