Spirited away

If you’ve found yourself wandering over to the drinks cabinet more than usual lately for low-alcohol and alcohol-free drinks, you’re not alone.  Demand for low alcohol and alcohol-free drinks is growing at such a fast rate that Waitrose is working with Diageo to introduce bold, dedicated areas in 253 shops across the UK to make it easier for customers to find Waitrose’s full range of over 70 low and alcohol-free drinks from beer and cider, to wines and spirits.

In general, drinkers are topping up their glasses with low-alcohol varieties more. Beer, wine, and spirits may offer a quick escape from inflationary times, yet there is a trade-off when it comes to the next morning, not to mention one’s health and wellbeing. Over the past year sales of low alcohol and alcohol-free drinks have grown by 20% at Waitrose, with sales of beer continuing to grow the fastest. The introduction of dedicated areas means 60% more space will be given to low and alcohol-free drinks across the estate.

The move appears to be part of something much larger that is changing what we drink. Maybe, as has been said, there is a shift in the role drinks play in peoples’ lives. With Waitrose and Diageo working together, the time has come to showcase quality, adult non-alcoholic options at a time when people are also becoming increasingly mindful of their health, the origins of their food and drink, and the influence of social media on consumption habits.

Research commissioned by Diageo (Ipsos Diageo Research Feb 2022 ), found that seven in ten UK adults want to be able to find low alcohol and alcohol-free drinks more easily.

Kantar (Kantar Shopper Panel w/e 9th July 2023) data found that 99% of UK shoppers have bought both low and alcohol-free drinks and alcohol over the past year. Separately, Kantar (Kantar Alcovision Data 31st May 2023) research found that nearly half of UK adults (47%) are switching between alcohol and low and alcohol-free drinks at the same occasion, and two-fifths (40%) of adults say they want to moderate their drinking.

Pierpaolo Petrassi, master of wine, and head of beers, wines and spirits at Waitrose says demand for low-alcohol and alcohol-free drinks is growing at a phenomenal rate. “It’s now the norm for customers to buy both,” he notes. “We expect this year to be the biggest year to date for sales and are preparing for strong demand at Christmas.

“The growth is down to our customers wanting to moderate their alcohol consumption, but is also heavily driven by the creation of new, great quality new drinks such as Guinness 0.0, Tanqueray 0.0 and Gordon’s Pink 0.0. We’ve added 10 new low and alcohol-free products this year and will launch more before Christmas.”

Nuno Teles, managing director Diageo GB says they recognise UK drinkers becoming more sophisticated and thinking more about how much they drink. The alcohol-free and low-alcohol category plays a “critical role” in providing quality choices for those looking to moderate, without compromising on experience.

Teles adds that Diageo GB and Waitrose want to remove the barriers that still exist when it comes to finding and understanding the options available.

This is a shrewd move. The reasons for opting for low-alcohol/no-alcohol are myriad, however it is a perfect third drink. Producers have already been adapting with a better range of options. A new generation of more discerning drinkers is looking for quality, flavour and lower alcohol. As the low-no alcohol space matures, prices may fall. In this new world, we should all be able to look forward to a better choice of drinks.

It’s really about balance.

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