Low- and no-alcohol off licences: a flash in the pan or here to stay? - Comment

open sign through a shop window

This month, online low/no alc retailer the Dry Drinker partnered with designer Anya Hindmarch to open a low- and no-alcohol off licence. The opening follows that of mindful drinking organisation Club Soda’s alcohol-free off licence, which opened in December.

For now, both sites are pop-ups. The question is, will bricks and mortar low- and no-alc shops become permanent fixtures?

There are a few things to consider here. For a start, sampling is pretty crucial in this arena. Beer aside, the price of entry can be high – convincing someone to pay more than £20 for a non-alcoholic gin requires a tasting session. And early adopters will likely need to revisit the wine category, as technology moves on and more brands hit the shelves. So that’s a big tick for bricks and mortar low/no stores.

There are other factors to consider, too. Research released today by William Grant & Sons’ alc-free Atopia brand suggests that 48% of UK drinkers already moderate their alcohol intake year-round. Meanwhile, participation in Dry January is expected to be up from 20% of drinkers in 2021, to 26% this year, the research says. If this continues, then we could be looking at almost one third of drinkers taking a month off in 2023.

Alcohol-free shops might be news this year, but they could be popping up everywhere next year. And as the trend for moderation moves beyond January, we will no doubt see a few shops go beyond the pop-up stage.

The trend for direct-to-consumer retail might also inspire a slew of brand shops, as these nascent drinks look for more sampling opportunities.

And let’s not forget, the big drinks companies have been building their low/no arsenal for quite some time. Diageo-backed incubator fund Distill Ventures took a share of Seedlip back in 2016, while Anheuser-Busch InBev said back in 2015 that by the end of “2025, we will expand our product portfolio to ensure that at least 20% of our global beer volume is no- or lower-alcohol”.

Just as the shelf space given over to these products in existing shops will become greater, so will the number of low/no-focused retailers. It’s already an established world online but openings such as Club Soda’s and Dry Drinker’s should pave the way for more permanent fixtures.      

Related articles: