Two bottles of Appletiser and a glass flute

Low- and no-alcohol products have steadily moved from being relatively niche products to becoming decidedly mainstream over the last five years or so, and the new year tends to see a spike in interest levels among consumers driven in part by a mix of New Year’s resolutions and Dry January.

The big question is: are you able to meet the demands of a growing audience of customers looking to still have a fantastic experience but without the alcohol?

According to Kantar data from March 2023, being ‘sober curious’ is now an entirely acceptable, and often welcome, social behaviour as more and more people adopt balanced lifestyles.

The data shows that one in five (20%) of UK consumers don’t drink alcohol, more than a third (36%) have limited or reduced their alcohol consumption in the last 12 months and the top driver for doing so is ‘improving health’.

A survey of 500 consumers by One Pulse in October 2023 also confirms that people do try to moderate their alcohol intake in the first few months of a new year. Some 41% reduce their alcohol intake in the first few months but do still drink occasionally while almost a fifth (19%) avoid alcohol altogether.

Consequently, having a great range of non-alcoholic options on your menu is really important to consumers. The same data shows that if you don’t have a good range of non-alcoholic options, more than a quarter of people (27%) say they would choose a different venue. Even if they do still visit, 44% say they wouldn’t drink alcohol but would probably have fewer drinks and spend less.

 

SOFT OPTION

Perhaps unsurprisingly, soft drinks remain the drink of choice for the majority of people trying to reduce alcohol intake. More than half (51%) of all non-alcoholic occasions feature a soft drink of some kind, says Lumina Intelligence data from May 2023.

The One Pulse survey cited above found that standard soft drinks like Coca-Cola or Sprite were the number one choice, followed by adult soft drinks like Appletiser. In third place were mocktails, followed by low- and no-alcohol beers, wines and spirits.

Ranging, then, is pretty straightforward. Coca-Cola Europacific Partners suggests, for instance, that to meet the various demands of today’s moderation consumers, all you need to do is offer your standard soft drinks, add more adult soft drinks and make sure you have a range of mocktails and low- and no-alcohol beers, wines and spirits available.

It’s worth noting however, that consumers are looking for an elevated experience when they visit a venue. A full three-quarters (75%) of respondents to a One Pulse pub and bar experience survey in July 2023 said they were looking for an “experience they can’t get at home”. In other words, it’s not just about the range of soft drinks on offer, but how they are served.

The perfect serve matters and that means fully chilled, in a clean and/or branded glass, with ice and a garnish. Serve it that way and 79% of those respondents said they’d order another drink and revisit the venue.

Similarly, when it comes to adult soft drinks, consumers want their non-alcoholic drinks to feel special, whether that’s served with a bit of something extra or it could be as simple as serving Appletiser in a Champagne flute!

LAGER LESSONS

The desire to live healthier lives is also one of the key macrotrends driving sales of low- and no-alcohol lager. In 2022, a whopping 71% of adult consumers said they were ‘proactively trying to lead a healthy lifestyle,’ according to CGA BrandTrack data.

For over 30% that meant drinking less alcohol and for over a quarter it meant drinking out less frequently.

And while innovation is seeing a broader range of options available in terms of low- and no-alcohol variants, it’s still lager and beer that lead the category. CGA data from January 2023 shows that low- or no-alcohol lager and beer account for almost half (46%) of all alcohol alternatives. In pound note terms, the total category value of low- and no-alcohol beer has more than doubled in just four years and now hovers around the £100m mark.

The total ‘low and no’ market has grown 59% in the last four years – yet 50% of venues stock only one low- or no-alcohol beer, according to CGA data from June 2023. That’s a massive opportunity and a lot of headroom for growth.

Unsurprisingly, it’s the big brands driving sales of low- and no- alcohol lager in particular. Heineken 0.0 is making the majority of the headway and is significantly ahead of other big-name brands, but the market is moving quickly with brands like Peroni Nastro Azzurro 0.0, Beck’s Blue, Birra Moretti Zero and San Miguel 0% all helping to grow sales in the category.

 

BIG OPPORTUNITY

There is clearly a major opportunity here for venues and there’s never been a better time to take a fresh look at your offer to ensure you have something for the ‘sober curious’ among your customers.