Nielsen insight: no and low have a long way to go

You can’t go down the alcohol aisle in a supermarket without noticing the influx of new no and low-alcohol alternatives. I’ve even picked one up thinking it was the alcoholic version and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Most bars and restaurants have pages in their drinks menus dedicated to alcohol-free alternatives. With restaurants and bars popping up where the drinks offering is strictly alcohol-free, it seems there’s no slowing the no/low movement. 

All this slots in well with the health conversation, which is ever more prevalent among shoppers, manufacturers and retailers. Shoppers tell us that, generally, health is a top concern, with limiting sugar, getting their five a day and limiting fat topping the list. Interestingly, limiting alcohol comes way down the list at number 12 and is, in fact, falling in importance over the years. 

No/low-alcohol products can be found across beer, wine, spirits, cider and even RTDs. While these products are growing – up £22.4 million in the past year – the total category is only worth £116.6 million, just 0.7% of the value for the whole of BWS. Given that limiting alcohol consumption is falling down the list of shopper concerns, and that the total no/low offering drives less than 1%, does such a small part warrant so much support?

Let’s take a look at the dynamics. The shopper who buys no/low products is the same shopper who buys the alcoholic versions. It’s probably no surprise that no/low products aren’t working (or designed) to tempt new shoppers into the BWS aisles. Rather, shoppers are simply adding no/low products to their drinks cabinet rather than swapping out.  

Shoppers tell us the main reason they buy no/low products is so they can still feel they’re having a drink when they have to drive. Another main reason is to help them reduce overall alcohol consumption, and one in 10 opt for no/low products when pregnant or breastfeeding. We are starting to see a small percentage drink no/low for religious/faith reasons, though this is much more popular among millennials.

Although no/low alcohol products are gaining in popularity and shoppers are becoming more aware through media and in store, it is still quite a niche shopper group. But there are opportunities yet to be fully unlocked that could make all the difference. 

There is an opportunity to blow up the notion of the traditional drinking occasion” – rather than parties and after-work drinks at the pub, think gyms and lunchtime. 

Gyms are becoming social gathering spaces and many already have juice bars and snack offers. A small number of no/low offerings have started to capitalise on this untapped occasion and are even moving into health subscription boxes. This is one example where realising the potential with this shopper group could really drive the category and, importantly, brand visibility.

Lunchtime meal deals are another occasion to drive penetration and brand visibility – you could pick up your sandwich, bag of crisps and no-alcohol lager or cocktail to go with it. There is no chance the noise and attention around no/low will disappear anytime soon, but if you’re banking on it being a growth driver you need to start thinking way, way outside the box. 

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