How independent retailers can cash in on the mindful drinking trend

08 April 2022, 08:20 AM
  • Consumers are increasingly reducing their alcohol intake, with mindful drinking taking centre stage as a key trend this year
How independent retailers can cash in on the mindful drinking trend

In 2021, almost half (49%) of UK adults were either not drinking any alcohol at all or planning to cut down in the near future. The market totals over 25 million people and is growing, with international drinks analysts IWSR expecting an increase in sales to £558m by 2024. 

Why are consumers jumping on the mindful drinking trend?
Laura Willoughby MBE, founder of the mindful drinking movement Club Soda explained: “Through our own research with Club Soda, we’ve learnt from our community that mental health is the number one motivation across all age categories (mental health (43%), physical health (38%) and weight loss (26%)). 

“Inevitably, Covid has accelerated a focus on health too, which was the second most popular driver behind choosing to mindfully drink in our survey.”

Tim Pethick, founder of non-alcoholic drinks retailer Zero Zilch Zip also identified Covid-19 as a key driver for this trend. He explained: “The quest for health and wellbeing has been a global mega-trend for some time. The pandemic accelerated the focus on wellness across the world so it is no surprise that we have seen a double-digit increase in moderating alcohol across Europe in the last couple of years. 

“Whilst some of the exceptional growth seen during the pandemic has washed away as we head back to ‘normal’, the mindful drinking trend is resolutely here to stay and pundits like IWSR forecast continuing growth.”

“The drinks industry is at the beginning of a period of change and innovation. Consumers are actively seeking new drinking experiences without alcohol. Social rituals, celebration occasions and ‘me-time’ remain just as important, if not more so in a post-pandemic world. Consumers are looking for great-tasting alternatives without alcohol to enhance enjoyment on these occasions.”

Paul Matthew, founder of non-alcohol spirit Everleaf expanded on these this idea: “We’re finding that our consumers aren’t non-drinkers, they’re moderators, so perhaps they’re choosing non-alc earlier in the week and having days where they avoid alcohol, or they’re moderating their nights out by having an alcoholic drink then a non-alcoholic to enjoy the night for longer. 

“I think that’s come from our better understanding of the impacts of alcohol and a wider appreciation of health and wellness, but also from the other direction - people trading up from traditional soft drinks who now have a more interesting alternative - one that also correlates to trends in flavour, ingredients and sourcing - foodies looking for an alternative to lemonade, cola and fruit juice.”

So how can fine food retailers actually sell mindful drinking successfully? Three key ways of selling alcohol-free that our experts identified were providing knowledge, focusing on quality, and hosting samplings.

Knowledge and guidance
According to Club Soda’s Laura, engaging with customers and providing knowledge is key. “Throughout our time at the Alcohol-Free Off-Licence, we guided, sampled and made sure customers were not pressured to decide too quickly. Our pop-up staff were trained to be consultative: educating, explaining, sampling, and guiding the consumer. 

“This selling style built trust, and by being brand agnostic it enhanced the shopping experience. Independents should treat alcohol-free as a whole new drinks category and give their ranges time to establish themselves with customers – education is vital to encourage purchase.”

Tim added: “Whilst you are promoting non-alcoholic drinks, it is acceptable for retailers to use alcohol as a reference point for alcohol-free beverages. These drinks are aimed at adults and are designed to replicate the tastes and sensations you would receive from their alcoholic counterpoints. 

“They belong in the beer, wine and spirit aisles. It also helps explain clearly to the consumer how these drinks are expected to be consumed, for example, a gin style alternative can sit alongside alcoholic gins so the customer knows to serve the product with a tonic.”

Quality over everything
According to Tim, “It is important to remember, that just like an alcoholic purchase, a non-alcoholic drinks customer will equally be looking for a product that is a treat. There’s no less expectation of an experience with drinks that simply don’t contain alcohol. You cannot underestimate the value we each place on our social lives, and the human need to feel part of a group. 

“Quality and variety are key. Consumers have become much more discerning over lockdown. It is therefore extremely important to offer them a good selection of quality non-alcoholic drinks across all categories – beer, spirits, aperitifs and the ‘wine occasion’, i.e., drinks that work well with food. There is an opportunity for retailers to move beyond the cheapest products, to a curated range of the best drinks on the market, making it easier for their customers.”

Philip Linardos, CEO and co-founder of digital wholesaler ShelfNow added: “There is a potentially lucrative low and no market out there for retailers, with consumers increasingly likely to want to explore a far more diverse array of products than traditional options like fizzy drinks and cordials

“Independent retailers have the advantage of being able to select far more creative, artisan products like Crossip’s Dandy Smoke and Fresh Citrus.”

Sampling can promote sales
As with the majority of products, sampling provides a great opportunity for indies to sell products as customers are able to ‘try before they buy’. As Phillip explains: “Independent retailers should consider capitalising on the end of lockdown by attending in-person events dedicated to low and no, such as the No and Low event that was hosted by Club Soda back in January 2022. 

“Events such as these pose a wonderful opportunity for independent retailers to not only learn about but also move ahead of competition to profit from this growing trend.”

Paul added: “Independents benefit from having close relationships with their customers and therefore are perfectly placed to offer advice as to how to navigate this nascent category and even to offer a small sample to interested consumers. We saw great success at the Club Soda pop up where everything was available to taste and would be very happy to continue to support independent retailers with free stock to enable this.”

While she champions sampling opportunities, Laura learnt a valuable lesson from the Club Soda event: “A learning from our Alcohol-Free Off-Licence pop-up is that you have to be generous – a tiny sample doesn’t convince a customer of a product. 

“With non-alcoholic drinks, often the products don’t necessarily fit a category or an occasion, so you need give a proper taste in order to allow the customer to digest not only the flavour of the product but the purpose too. 

“At the Off-Licence, we developed gin, wine, whisky and Italian spritz ‘journeys’ which allowed consumers to choose from a range of options and really find what they liked within categories they understood.”

By championing quality, taste and knowledge, independent retailers should be able to cash in on the mindful drinking trend and become a destination for alcohol reducers and drinkers alike.

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