In the 10 years since Dry January began, drinking habits have become more diverse and there’s no longer a simple polarisation between teetotallers and drinkers. Low and no-alcohol drinks aren’t just for the sober, and consuming moderately is front of mind for many people. Does tapping into this new complexity bring a mass-market opportunity or is low/no still a niche category? 

Hayley Spencer, account director, YesMore drinks marketing agency 

People’s awareness and consideration of their mental health is growing. Over the past few years we’ve seen changes in habits around eating, drinking and lifestyle reflected more and more on social media. 

There’s a move away from the irresponsible drinking meme culture of “gin and bear it”-type slogans – and there’s no doubt there would be some backlash if brands posted this type of content today. 

The growing popularity of sober and moderating influencers, creating drinks and cocktail content while talking about their mental wellbeing, makes it clear there’s a hunger for advice on how to consume more mindfully year-round. 

It’s not just sober influencers who can sell low and no-alcohol either, as demonstrated by no-alcohol spirit Lyre’s successful collaboration with Próspero tequila founder Rita Ora last year. 

Our approach has always been to show brands a better, more conscientious way to market drinks, and we see most clients agreeing with this without questioning their own practices. Whether mindful drinking has gone mainstream or not, more mindful marketing of alcohol has certainly gathered pace and continues to do so.

Katie Jenkins, marketing director, KAM Media 

More than one in two Brits say they actively want to cut their alcohol consumption in the next 12 months. The average drinker now frequently moderates between alcohol and non-alcoholic drinks, with nearly one in three pub visits completely alcohol-free. 

It’s clear Brits are looking for ways to drink less alcohol but don’t want to miss out on all the occasions where alcohol is normally present, so making more alcohol-free options available is welcomed with open arms. 

According to our recent research for Lucky Saint, awareness of the alcohol-free category is at an all-time high, with 95% of UK adults having now heard of it. This figure was just 86% two years ago. Moreover, 83% of adults have tried an alcohol-free alternative, up from 66% in 2020, with alcohol-free beer the most popular category. 

Our research shows that the growth in popularity of alcohol-free isn’t solely driven by those who never drink alcohol, but the huge number of Brits who want to moderate their intake. This isn’t about a growing teetotal population, but acceptance that our relationship with alcohol is shifting. Drinking habits are more mindful and consumers are demanding decent alternatives.

Dawn Davies MW, head buyer, The Whisky Exchange

We are not seeing a huge uplift in sales of low and no-alcohol in spirits, probably because people come to us specifically for alcohol. We see strong sales on just a few brands that have been on the market for longer, but very little from the newer ones. 

There is now a glut of products that are very similar – those simulating gin – but there is little that stands out about them individually. The ones that sell tend to be the brands that are different, including vermouth or bitter alternatives, such as Roots Divino. 

Producers that are able to make liquids closer to the real thing, like beers and some non-alcoholic white or sparkling wines, such as Noughty, are also better sellers. 

For low/no to become more mainstream, and not a passing trend, liquids need to get closer to alcohol in both mouthfeel and taste. In the year ahead people are more likely to go for quality, not quantity, in their alcohol choices as the recession starts to bite, making these USPs all the more imperative.

Laura Willoughby, co-founder, Club Soda 

Without a doubt, mindful drinking is a ‘thing’. A perfect coming together of trends means that more people are looking to moderate their drinking than ever before. People want to keep fit and protect their mental wellbeing, and an improvement in the quality and availability of alcohol-free drinks has normalised asking for an alcohol-free drink. 

It also means that the consumer is no longer willing to compromise on their drink choice when out. As a result, one in three visits to the pub is alcohol-free, as cited by KAM. If we want everyone to feel welcome and included at on-trade venues, space needs to be made for an excellent alcohol-free offering, because the one thing that has not changed is people’s desire to socialise. 

But is it mainstream yet? There is a lot of focus on what to drink when we are not drinking. The fundamental shift will come when we also think about what we drink when we are drinking alcohol.