No/Low alcohol: Understanding the trend

Guest writer & on-trade expert, Jonathan Watt, talks about the increasing demand no / low alcohol options

It will come as no surprise that the no/low alcohol trend has gained momentum over the last decade. Until recently we viewed these choices as general trends, but they should now be seen as behaviours that are part of a generational change.

Generation Z (born 1990s – early 2000s), as well as Millennials (1981 – 1996) have started to reduce their intake of alcohol as a conscious lifestyle choice. The most recent ONS figures revealed that around two in five Gen Zs are now teetotal.

So, why are these generations taking this stance on alcohol?


There are three main elements behind it:

  1. The health ramifications

    Although the effect alcohol has on our health has not changed, the accessibility of research around this area has. Mainstream information about how alcohol can affect our bodies has reversed the image of ‘drinking is cool’ for Gen Z and Millennial customers.
  2. The pressure of social media

    Market research from Mintel suggests that a reason for the decline in alcohol consumption is that younger people are seeking control in the face of constant social media surveillance.[1] Unlike previous generations, nights out at the pub are documented through photos and videos across multiple social media platforms where it is likely to remain for the world to see, including future employers. Today, everyone is their own brand and they have to sell it.
  3. The pressure of modern life

    
There is an ever increasing pressure of succeeding professionally and personally, with no sign of average working hours reducing (so a hangover just isn’t an option). Many Gen Z’s will prioritise career goals as it is perceived to be much harder in modern society to achieve what they want, hence reduced alcohol intake.

And what is the industry doing?

The hospitality industry has started to capitalise on this change, in fact the sales of low/no alcohol beer are up 28%, with non-alcoholic spirits up an impressive +400%[1]. However, businesses understand that a large proportion of people still want to consume and enjoy alcohol, just in a more controlled way.

We have started to see the phrase “no/low” used everywhere within the industry, but let’s delve into what it actually means to the consumer. For one person, it may be a drink that is 1% alcohol, for another it may be 5% ABV. There is currently no quantifiable consumer understanding of what ABV really means.

Case Study: Hedonist

Because of these issues, Hedonist, a specialist cocktail bar based in Leeds, wanted to create a way of offering low alcohol containing drinks, but in a quantifiable and understandable way. In a world where almost everyone counts every calorie they consume thanks to the ‘MyFitnessPal generation’, they looked at how you can count alcohol.

They have now launched 'Project One', a menu where all of the drinks have been created to be exactly one unit of alcohol as defined by Public Health England. It means that people who try the menu can still enjoy an exciting alcoholic drink while precisely monitoring their alcohol consumption.

Although the alcohol levels on the Project One menu are kept low, how do they go about keeping the characteristics and flavours of the base spirits? It all comes down to the chosen spirits. Through their blind taste testing, they have found gin and mescal to have the most distinct flavourings. With these spirits, brand defining flavours come through, even with a small amount.

In terms of the soft drinks to pair with your flavoursome spirits, Hedonist has found that those containing less sugar will carry the flavour through the most as they are don’t overpower the spirit, but complement it instead.

Since creating and testing the drinks, Hedonist has seen an influx of people ordering the Project One selection. The bar has also seen an increase in custom mid-week, which in Leeds isn’t as common as larger cities like London and Manchester.

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