It’s the start of a new year. Many of us are in the midst of Dry January or a New Year’s resolution to cut back on alcohol. Though this can have varying degrees of success, the spotlight often falls on the low and no-alcohol category at this time of year. 

Walking around supermarkets from early January onwards you can see several end-of-aisle fixtures dedicated to the category – and with good reason. 

The low/no-alcohol category is worth £205 million to the off-trade, up £77 million on pre-Covid 2019, meaning its share of BWS is now over 1% (NielsenIQ, year to December 24). Growth of £5.3 million in the latest year may not sound much, but when you compare this to a £1.8 billion decline in alcohol sales as the category resets after pandemic restrictions, you can see why low/no deserves focus. 

Recent research conducted by CGA shows that four out of five bars plan to increase their range of low and no-alcohol drinks in 2023. Four in five bar staff say that their primary audience for low and no-alcohol drinks are people who are not teetotal, and 78% think the category adds new occasions to people’s drinking habits, rather than replacing existing ones. 

Events such as Sober October and Dry January help to drive awareness, but for the category to carry on growing, low/no alternatives need to be considered as part of shoppers’ repertoires throughout the year, and a greater variety of options in the on-trade can only be good for the future of the category in take-home. 

Across sub-categories the story is mixed. Beer is leading the way and accounts for 54% of low/no sales, with 2.3% share of total beer sales. Most of the biggest beer brands now have a low/no alternative with more launched already this month. 

Price plays a part in beer success: the top three products in low/no beer are on average 20% cheaper than their full-strength alternatives, meaning the cost of entry to the category is relatively low for consumers. 

In our recent NielsenIQ State of the Nation survey, 20% of households claimed to be reducing the amount of alcohol bought to consume at home to manage their spend during the cost of living crisis. At a time when budgets are stretched, offering low/no brands can provide a more prudent alternative. 

On the flip side, spirits have clear room to grow. Only 0.4% of spirits sales are low/no, although this has more than doubled in the past two years. The cost of a low/no spirit alternative is often more prohibitive than options in beer, cider or wine. 

Producers could consider trial packs, either sold separately or given away as an add-on to the parent brand, to bring shoppers who find price a barrier into the category.