When Stuart Elkington, founder of DryDrinker.com, stopped drinking eight years ago, the range of low and no-alcohol products was “pretty poor” – inspiring him to start his ecommerce operation. Here, he talks to Lucy Britner about the evolution of both the business and the category 

We’ve evolved alongside all the great brands that have come on to the scene. The category, in particular beer, has been in huge growth in the past few years and, as well as great craft breweries making really good quality drinks, the bigger players have now started to get involved too, so there’s a lot of focus that just wasn’t there when I started. Every year since we started out, we’ve enjoyed double-digit growth. We’re working in a category that has huge potential to grow even more, so I’m excited to see what the future holds for us. 

Beer is our biggest-selling category. It’s probably the category where there has been the most development and innovation since we started. I think because of that, customers are most engaged with it. Spirits, too, have seen massive growth in the past few years – brands such as Seedlip have led the way. But now there are so many brands, like Caleño and Salcombe’s New London Light, which are innovating and moving the category on. There’s a lot of focus on sustainability there too, which is great to see. 

There is a bit of movement in wine. Brands such as Thomson & Scott have been doing the low and no-alcohol wine thing very well for a while now – but there isn’t the same scale of brands as there is in beer and spirits. I’m looking forward to seeing wine grow. 

In a recent survey we did, 80% of our customers said they considered themselves to be drinkers who are looking to moderate. This is where we want to be – it’s a huge opportunity for us to grow. 

In terms of age range, we’ve got customers who are in their late 20s, up to their 60s, but the average is very much around the 35-50 mark. It’s pretty much even when it comes to a gender split and then in terms of area, although we’re slightly more popular in the south of England. We’ve now got customers across the UK in all the bigger cities, too. 

I would advise retailers interested in the space to look beyond the bigger brands. Although they’ve started to get in on the action, there are some great independent craft brewers and distillers making really good quality products, so do your research. Also, use your understanding of your own customer base to decide what to stock. If you sell a lot of gin or pale ale, look for low and no alternatives in those areas and display them alongside on shelf. Make sure your staff are educated on the products and have tasted them, so they can confidently recommend them. 

If you are stocking low and no spirits, give your customers serving suggestions. If something works well with soda water and a slice of orange, use a shelf talker to suggest that.