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No & Low alcohol: Understanding the trend

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.

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

1. The health ramifications

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. 

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.

Case Study: How Hedonist grew sales with low alcohol drinks.

Because of these issues, Hedonist, a specialist cocktail bar based in Leeds, created a way of offering low alcohol containing drinks through '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 monitoring their alcohol consumption.

We spoke to Dan Crowther and Jonathan Lee, owners of Hedonist Drinks, to answer some Low & No questions to help our members.

What is your gross profit like on these low and no cocktails?

Gross profit is usually really good on low and no cocktails. It’s important that you price them at the same level as alcoholic cocktails, mainly because you don’t want to defer the quality of an alcohol-free drink by price. If you did reduce the price, then it will suggest to your customer that it is an inferior product - but they are equally as good as their alcohol equivalents.

In your personal opinion, what are the best low or non-alcoholic beverages?

At the moment, beer is certainly leading the way – mainly because the category started the race ahead of everyone else with 0% alternatives – Heineken comes to mind as having a 0% alternative that maintains the flavour profile of the alcoholic version.

Looking at spirits, Clean & Co have a great range of direct alcohol replacements e.g., rum, gin, etc. Other brands to consider if you want to build a cocktail around the spirit are Everleaf Drinks and Caleño Drinks. My only watch-out would be the shelf-life on some of these drinks, the flavour profile can start to change after they have been opened for six months.

You are a city bar, so are there many people that buy low and no drinks?

Our low and no cocktail menu has driven footfall into the venue, especially mid-week, as people are starting to realise that you can go to a city-centre bar and have a drink that won’t be high in alcohol. This is great as customers can still enjoy the atmosphere and experience of drinks out with their friends and family, just with a lower alcohol consumption to remain focused for work the next day. On the weekend, we tend to see an increase in those ordering alcoholic drinks as their mentality changes.

What are your tips for making low and no drinks?

There are so many ways to start building no and low drinks for your menu. Our methodology starts with our Project One movement – which was the UK’s first “one unit” cocktail menu, created to capitalise on the trend of healthy eating, healthy drinking and a general increase of self-awareness of personal health.

To start, challenge your team to create drinks with the sole requirement of only containing one unit of alcohol. The team can use any products they like, and then the ABV level can be measured. If the alcohol level is too high, at this point the recipe can be changed and adapted to bring it down.

If you are looking to make a drink that is 100% alcohol-free, start with the base non-alcoholic spirit or think about the flavour profile that you want the drink to have – then utilise drinks that will achieve this. For example, Britvic or London Essence mixers, or introduce Teisseire syrups. Syrups are a good way of adding additional flavour to mocktails, for example, you can use vanilla syrup to mimic the taste of flavoured vodka.

What are the best flavours for mocktails? What has worked for you?

Two years ago, we would have said the flavours that worked were the ones that consumers know and love and feel safe with. Flavours like passionfruit and strawberry for example. Now, more exotic and adventurous flavours are working better within the non-alcoholic market. This gives the drinks a sense of premiumisation, a perception that the drink is worth paying more for, gives it provenance and includes flavours that people aren’t used to. By using new and exciting flavours, it suggests that it’s harder to find and harder to make which increases the perceived value of that drink.

With the rise of mocktails, is there an ‘industry standard’ list of names? Or is it best to create your own?

Previously, there has been an industry standard in mocktail naming like adding ‘virgin’ or ‘no-jito’, but now there is a call for them to be more integrated into the cocktail menu without shouting them out as mocktails.

Our recommendation is to name mocktails in the same manner as alcoholic cocktails and don’t have them sectioned off on your menu. What we have found works for us, are unique names on our standard menu with a small note saying low ABV or non-alcoholic.

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