Alcohol or no alcohol? That is the question. The rise of the mindful drinking movement

Until recently, it was practically unheard of that amongst a group of friends in the age demographic 18-25 there would be more than one non-drinker (and that was often the designated driver!). If you didn’t want to drink alcohol you were branded ‘boring’ or asked if you were sick? Things are different now. The age-old partnership between drinking and alcohol is constantly questioned, as the movement towards healthy lifestyles continues to grow.

CGA’s Business Leaders Survey in 2019 shows that sales have increased by 48% from the previous year to make it a £60m a year category. And growth for non-alcoholic options was even higher at 80%.

Consumers are clearly keener to drink non-alcoholic or low alcohol drinks. Maybe because they have been told not to for health reasons or they just feel the need to be healthier. It will therefore be interesting to see how the beverage industry continues to develop in order to accommodate this growing trend.

So, what are the most important factors in producing a non/low alcohol range? Here’s my personal take on it:

The name – should we even call it ‘non’ or ‘low’ – isn’t this implying that what we are drinking is of a lesser quality than our colleagues drinking the alcoholic version? It sometimes sounds apologetic when ordering – “I will just go for the low alcohol beer please, as I am driving?”. Why do we make excuses for ordering a low alcohol version? Maybe the marketing industry can create some clever straplines with a positive spin?

The taste – in order to attract and maintain fans of non/low alcohol drinks, the taste just cannot be compromised. As long as we can get the same (or better) depth of flavour experience from a non/low alcohol version, my taste buds will send a message to my brain to repeat the experience (over and over).

The look & feel – are drinks companies investing the same time and effort in producing beautiful packaging that helps the non-alcoholic beverage consumer choose the right drink for them as they are for their latest alcoholic offering? Is the non-alcoholic (mindful) drinker even more influenced by the packaging given that there is seemingly so much new choice in the market?

The lifestyle benefits – no hangover, better parenting, a good role model, blah, blah, blah. The health angle is a huge contributor to the increase in the mindful drinking movement. As a past heavy drinker I have experienced that dreaded ‘morning after’ feeling of throbbing head and extreme dehydration, not to mention the psychological shame of asking myself ‘did I REALLY say that’ or even worse ‘what did I say to them’…eeeek. Any product that promotes these obvious benefits gets my vote immediately!

The price – why should it be the same price as an alcoholic beverage? Does the price really matter? Accepted that for some drinks there is an added stage in the process where the alcohol is removed. Frankly, though, if the taste is amazing and I love the packaging I am happy to pay the same or more than for alcoholic drinks. If as a consumer I buy into the brand and the experience, the price becomes irrelevant.

The mindful drinking movement is in full flow with organisations like Club Soda bringing together the mindful drinking community. They are not a bunch of non-alcoholic, anti-drinking, anti-fun disciples but rather a community of people who have chosen to drink less (or no) alcohol without compromising their lifestyles at all. The fact that they exist and their membership is growing rapidly just illustrates that the demand for low or non-alcoholic drinks is only going to increase alongside the needs of consumers looking for product ranges with low sugar, fat, gluten-free etc…to complete their healthy lifestyle choices. I am personally looking forward to seeing the new products (food & beverage) that perfectly accommodate my needs.

Rachael Stilwell,
B&G Business Development
T  07973 690055

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