January has become a time of abstinence, where Alcohol Concern grabs column inches aplenty by challenging the hungover hordes to go 31 days without a drop of booze.
Calling January the driest month may seem daft at a time when half the country is under water after Storm Frank wreaked havoc, causing rivers to burst their banks and rendering canoes the best means of navigating a typical high street.
But in the drinks retailing world it is a lean time, and there is no better month to wax lyrical about the benefits of bolstering ranges with no and low-alcohol beer and wine.
Alcohol-free beer is up 15% in the off-trade and the non-alcohol still wine category is up 43% year on year (Nielsen, year to December 5, 2015) and is now worth just over
Rob Harrison, general manager for sales at Accolade, which supplies Echo Falls zero alcohol sparkling fusion drink, says: “Shoppers are becoming more health conscious, so awareness of calories and alcohol is becoming more of a consideration. We can see this through the increase in participants doing Dry January. It will be interesting to look at the sales of our non-alcohol sparkling wines after this month concludes.”
Dan Harwood, brand activation manager for market leader Eisberg, said: “Sales of alcohol-free wine are booming in the UK, with an increase of 42% and brand leader Eisberg is leading with way with a sales increase of 82% (Nielsen, year to September 2015).
“People are choosing not to drink alcohol for a wide variety of reasons – this goes far beyond Dry January. There are multiple health-related tee-totallers, charity abstainers and, of course, the designated driver on most social occasions.
“These people don’t stop going out, socialising or seeing friends in January or whenever they choose to abstain from alcohol. As a result, non-drinkers are looking for an alternative that helps them feel part of the night out.
“Proper, alcohol-free alternatives must go beyond water, fruit juice or sugary fizzy drinks.
“Eisberg has recently added Sauvignon Blanc to our family of wines. Our winemakers have taste tested the product extensively pre-launch, to ensure the quality of the Sauvignon Blanc grape remains, even after the alcohol has been gently removed.
“Sauvignon Blanc is the ‘go to’ white for wine drinkers, it’s both a grape and name that consumers recognise immediately and feel confident ordering.
“Drinkers choose red, white or rose Eisberg safe in the knowledge that they can still enjoy the taste of their favourite wine and the ritual of the pour, but without the alcohol content.”
AB-Inbev has teamed up with pollsters at Opinium and ComRes and concluded that 32% of Brits have now tried alcohol-free beer, with Millennials – those aged 18-34 – the biggest fans. The studies found that 21% of Millennials are likely to choose alcohol-free beer in January, an increase of 10% on 2014.
AB-Inbev legal and corporate affairs director Anna Tolley says: “It’s great to see the growing popularity of alcohol-free beer among the UK public – especially Millennials. Offering consumers choice is an important part of our commitment to responsible drinking and we are proud to brew Beck’s Blue alcohol-free beer.”
There is also an opportunity for retailers to champion drinks that are lower in alcohol than standard beers and wines, for those Brits looking for a damp rather than a dry January.
Amy Ledger, marketing executive at supplier CWF, says: “There will always be a demand for low-alcohol wines. These are perfect for those who find a higher abv wine too intense/strong/heavy or for those driving or drinking/dining midday. They can be consumed with ice to provide more of a refreshing long drink too.
“Our 8% abv British wines continue to perform well since launch – the fruit variants can be considered as an upgrade for the fruit cider drinker.”
David Mallory, UK impulse channel director at Gallo, which supplies low-alcohol drinks Barefoot Refresh and Gallo Family Vineyards Spritz, adds: “Growth in interest for lighter, lifestyle wines will outstrip overall category performance. The trend towards lighter, fruitier drinks, especially among the younger generations, will continue and this will have implications for all drinks categories, both alcoholic and non- alcoholic. We see continued growth in demand for lighter and fruitier wine options in particular.
“Our Gallo Family Vineyards Spritz and Barefoot Refresh wines for example have proven popular since they launched last summer, with Gallo Family Vineyards Spritz already a major player in the fruit wine category.
“It is still growing as consumers look for wines with lighter and fruitier taste profiles. We have gained greater trial and market penetration with products such as Gallo Family Vineyards Spritz and Barefoot Refresh, which appeal to those who don’t enjoy traditional wine styles and are seeking more refreshing alternatives.”