Opportunities For Low- And Alcohol-free Brands As Consumers Reduce Alcohol Consumption

New research from Mintel reveals that 32% of all Brits have reduced or limited their alcohol intake over the past 12 months in comparison to what they would usually consume. What is more, 51% of the nation’s beer, wine and cider drinkers say they are drinking less alcohol than a few years ago, confirming Brits are actively moderating their drinking habits.

While many glasses may now be half empty, it is economical factors which are encouraging consumers to cut back. Mintel found that 44% of Brits who have reduced their alcohol have done so in order to save money, while 41% of those choosing to limit alcohol intake have done so to lose or avoid gaining weight. Improving personal health (39%) is also a notable trigger for cutting down and a further 30% have cut-back to reduce the risk of disease.

Richard Caines, Senior Food & Drink Analyst at Mintel, said: “As many as a third of all Brits have limited or reduced their alcohol consumption at some point in the last year. While this includes consumers cutting back for shorter and longer periods of time, it is a strong indicator that steps to moderate alcohol consumption are now widespread. Reducing alcohol consumption to save money reflects the discretionary nature of drinks and how they can add significantly to outgoings.”

Mintel said the fact that Brits are reducing the amount of alcohol they drink presents a significant opportunity for low-alcohol and alcohol-free beers, ciders and wines. Today, lower-alcohol beer, cider or wine is drunk by around one quarter (23%) of alcohol drinkers, while overall, just 14% of Brits drink non-alcoholic or alcohol-free beer, cider or wine. Usage of lower-alcohol drinks is higher among men (26%) and significantly above average for 18-34-year-olds (41%).

Pubs and bars are proving popular venues for low alcohol brands, as a night out (26%) and a casual drink at the pub (22%) are when low-alcohol drinks most appeal to consumers if they are limiting or reducing their alcohol intake.

The research found that a taste more like standard-strength equivalents would sway nearly three in 10 drinkers (28%) to consume low-alcohol or alcohol-free versions of alcoholic drinks. However, overall, soft drinks are more popular than low-alcohol, alcohol-free versions of alcoholic drinks for all occasions. For current alcohol drinkers, 41% say that if they were limiting the amount of alcohol they were drinking when having a casual drink at the pub then they’d pick a soft drink, compared to 29% who would pick a low-alcohol or non-alcoholic version of an alcoholic drink.

Caines commented: “Replicating the taste of standard-strength alcoholic drinks and changing perceptions remains a key challenge for low-alcohol and alcohol-free manufacturers. Alcohol-free versions of alcoholic drink brands also need to look at the reasons why consumers are limiting or reducing their alcohol intake in order to increase their appeal as an alternative to standard-strength alcoholic drinks. This includes offering bigger savings to those looking to save money, as well as prominently highlighting lower calorie content compared to standard-strength equivalents to those looking to better manage their weight and improve their health.”

NAM Implications:
  • If the triple-whammy of saving, weight-loss and health improvement really takes hold, then alcohol marketing will be about optimising a share of a diminishing pool of alcohol at the expense of competition…
  • i.e. realistic assessment of relative competitive appeal vs. available alternatives, getting closer to regular users, and always delivering more than it says on the tin…