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Dry January may have come to a close, but the sober-curious mindset is not over. We’re taking a dive into the alcohol-free and low-alcohol drinks category. What do we need to know about those who are sober-curious and how can we ensure we cater for them?

The alcohol-free and low-alcohol category was worth £255m in 2022 (Mintel) growing 9% in 2022 and with a predicted growth of 7% YOY. Mintel shared that this growth in UK adults was due to consumers trying to moderate their alcohol consumption, with the behaviour more prevalent among 18-24 year olds.

These insights were mirrored by Portman Group, an industry body which backs responsible drinking. They said the number of young adults calling themselves non-drinkers was 25% in 2020, rising to 30% in 2021, then 27% in 2022. It is now at a whopping 39%. A spokesman said: “Trends show that the younger generation is now the most sober age group overall. Our research tells a positive story of how low- and no-alcohol products have become a normal part of how the public moderate drinking and tackle potentially harmful situations.”

Whilst the numbers of people identifying as ‘non-drinkers’ is rising, this isn’t the case for all consumers and certainly not all of the time. 99% of shoppers who have bought alcohol-free and low-alcohol drinks in the last year have also purchased alcohol, and around half are switching between alcohol and alcohol-free options on the same occasion. This isn’t an all or nothing lifestyle, it’s a lifestyle of balance.

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It’s certainly not time for pubs, bars and restaurants to stop serving alcohol, we’re a long way off being a full sober society, but it is important for them to start stocking a strong range of no and low alcohol options for those who are cutting back. 

As consumers are increasingly looking to moderate, alcohol-free and low-alcohol drinks options are now a must-stock for hospitality venues. It’s time for back bars to have the balance that consumers are seeking in their lives, and to allow them to swap between alcohol and alcohol-free in the same visit. 

There is a lot hospitality can learn from retail and the journey it has been on over the last few years. There has been an undeniable demand for alcohol-free and low alcohol products, with the low & no category across the off-trade growing at +12.5%, ahead of the entire alcohol category. Now, more than ever, is the time for hospitality brands to review their alcohol-free and low-alcohol drinks offering and merchandising tactics to evaluate ways they can tap into the opportunity of the expanding category.

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The demand is there. A new industry report produced by Lucky Saint and KAM Media found that nearly one in three pub visits (29%) and 37% if restaurant visits are completely alcohol-free. And 52% of US consumers say restaurants should offer more mocktails.

Low alcohol doesn’t mean low expectations. Consumers expect alcohol-free and low-alcohol products to deliver on flavour and taste, enabling them to enjoy a beverage the same way they would an alcoholic drink. Quality still remains king, and for many is where the industry is lacking. A range of soft drinks, one low beer and one low cider is no longer enough and doesn’t live up to their expectations. They want the choice, the quality and the enjoyment they get from alcoholic drinks – just without the alcohol. 

The time to review your low and no drinks range is now. Our F&B consultants can help advise on building the perfect drinks menu for your guests and our brand team know how to communicate them with joy and excitement. Get in touch if you need a helping hand. 

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