How and why consumers are drinking mindfully in 2023

17 January 2023, 13:43 PM
  • With consumers actively drinking more mindfully in 2023, low alcohol and adult soft drinks are big business, especially in speciality retail
How and why consumers are drinking mindfully in 2023

The low/no alcohol boom is far from over. In fact, as Racheal Vaughan Jones, marketing director at The REAL Drinks Co., explains, “55% of UK consumers admit to actively moderating their alcohol consumption and this has led to people seeking out better alternatives. 

“The early adopters in the on-trade really helped to move things forward with high quality no/low serves that showed consumers you could have a great alcohol-free drink that was just as tasty and sophisticated as the full-strength equivalent.”

But what are consumers looking for this year, and how are these beverages tailored to fine food and drink retail?

Driving demand
When it comes to what is driving this demand for low and no alcohol beverages, it seems to stem from increased interest in health post-Covid as people consume much more mindfully.

As Jennie Inch, brand manager at Highland Spring explains, “Today’s consumers are increasingly aware of how the food and drink they consume impacts their health, this has a knock-on effect for the food and drink industry. For example – swapping favourite products for healthier alternatives or trying new flavours with beneficial ingredients – including cutting out or down on alcohol, resulting in retailers pivoting their offering.”

Of course, the Covid-19 pandemic definitely accelerated this shift towards a health-focused public. Henry Chevallier Guild, founder of Nonsuch Shrubs, adds, “The last three years have given us all a great deal of pause for thought, re-evaluating the things that are important to us and the priorities that we all have. Lifestyle choices are changing because of it, and drinking more mindfully is a movement that fits right into this. 

“It also happens that the choice and range of alcohol-free drinks to choose from has not just expanded in recent years, but has greatly improved too. This encourages people to explore further and makes the choice to not a drink a great deal easier than it was a few years ago.” 

As Jordi Barri, CEO of Flax & Kale, puts it, “Now is the time for the ‘Mindful Drinkers’! I think it is fair to say that many people are looking after themselves much more and much better than before. And this means drinking alcohol in moderation and perhaps too, favouring drinks which are delicious, whether these are with or without alcohol. This explains why sales of drinks like Kombucha are booming.”

This shift towards mindful drinking is largely driven by the younger generation, and according to Laura Willoughby, founder of Club Soda, “Mental health is the biggest cross-generational driver for a change in drinking habits, but this is coupled with a growing social acceptance that you don’t have to drink. 

“The fact you can now get something really delicious and non-alcoholic is making it easier for people to choose when and where and how they drink. It is a perfect storm of factors and there is still so much to look forward to.”

Tailored to fine retail
No longer just basic soft drinks, the alcohol-free category is evolving, and in many respects, it is well-suited to fine food and drink retail so indies can certainly cash in. 

As Henry explains, “There is a lot of consumer trust in the fine drink market and expectations of what alcohol-free can be needs to be met with great liquids. Whilst there is a huge demand for familiar experiences just without the alcohol, many consumers will increasingly demand a broader choice and to be catered to in the way they would be if they were drinking alcohol.

“There is still a long way to go on this front and the fine drink market should be where the benchmark is set.”

But for Paul Matthew, founder of Everleaf, it’s more about the range available in the shop than the nature of the shop itself. “There’s a big cross-over between premium alcohol consumers and premium low/no as you’d expect. We sell best in places that have a great drinks offering full-stop, whether that’s high-end retail or the world’s best bars. 

“Often the non-alcohol drinking occasions might be earlier in the week, so it’s increasing opportunities to sell, which has to be attractive to the fine drink market. These consumers are the flavour-seekers, the connoisseurs, and they’re increasingly looking for non-alcohol, so let’s give them what they want!”, he adds.

As Laura concludes, “Low and no is without a doubt tailored to fine retail, consumers trust their specialist retailers. They know you have impeccable taste. Curating an alcohol-free offer that you are proud of will delight your customers and provide an additional revenue stream (evidence shows it increases sales rather than taking away from alcohol and softs).”

more like this