As a growing number of people abstain from alcoholic drinks, drinks companies are scrambling to launch or acquire no-alcohol labels or create lower alcohol versions of their iconic brands.
Drinks analytics group IWSR estimates global alcohol sales dropped 9.4% in 2020 to 24.8billion nine-litre cases, as bar and restaurant closures due to COVID-19 cut social drinking. However, sales of low and no-alcohol alternatives, excluding soft drinks, grew slightly, at 0.95% to 292.1million cases.
New research from GlobalData shows approximately three out of four people in the APAC region said they were drinking less alcohol in August 2020, around 20% have stopped drinking alcohol altogether and a third are likely to replace them with products which claimed to have a positive health impact.
“APAC consumers are turning away from alcohol driven by concerns around physical and mental health,” GlobalData consumer analyst Carmen Bryan said.
“Trends are shaping new home-bound leisure and social occasions where consumers seek the same taste and feel of mature drinks without the negative implications.
“It will be crucial for brands to blur these lines further, emphasising the positive health credentials that will help reassure consumers, both mentally and physically, to tap into multiple consumption occasions and justify a potentially higher price mark up.”
While low and no-alcohol wine and beer producers were the biggest innovators initially in this space, spirits companies are catching up fast.
The Financial Times notes: “Spirits and aperitifs have been the focus of recent high-profile launches. A milestone came in 2019 with the acquisition by the world’s largest distiller Diageo of a majority stake in Seedlip.
“Seedlip now has dozens of peers, including Diageo’s Gordon’s 0.0 and South African brand Ceder’s, in which France’s Pernod Ricard bought a majority stake this month.”
FT also points out that it’s a highly profitable market, as It is a potentially profitable one, since alcohol-free drinks do not incur excise duty. Prices for recent alcohol-free launches have been set at or just below alcoholic equivalents despite the tax difference.
Bacardi is preparing to launch two no-alcohol spirit alternatives for cocktail making under a new brand, Palette — a “white” drink, called Roots, with nutmeg and juniper, and a dark drink, called Bold, with vanilla and oak wood.
“The next generation of drinkers is very interested in this area,”said Marine Rozenfeld (above), innovation and development lead for western Europe at Bacardi. “It’ll be a very important part of our industry in the future.”
The launch follows Diageo introducing Gordon’s 0.0 in the UK, an alcohol-free version of its famed gin made using the same botanicals as the London Dry expression.
Anita Robinson, marketing director Diageo GB, said: “Our expert innovation team at Gordon’s has combined years of expertise and historic gin distilling knowledge to create a credible alcohol-free experience.
Pernod Ricard launches low-alcohol whisky & gin
Pernod Ricard created 20% ABV variants of Ballantine’s Scotch whisky and Beefeater gin – Ballantine’s Light and Beefeater Light – initially in Spain, which is a key market for both brands.
Jean-Christophe Coutures, chairman and chief executive of Chivas Brothers, said: “Our teams have been working hard to create spirit drinks that accommodate mindful drinking without compromising on flavour, and to bring Scotch and gin fans a new way to enjoy the Ballantine’s and Beefeater experience.
“In line with Pernod Ricard’s 2030 Sustainability & Responsibility roadmap, Good Times from a Good Place, we are continuing to challenge ourselves and push the boundaries in developing innovative expressions that reflect the changing lifestyles of our consumers.”
Ballantine’s master blender Sandy Hyslop spent months experimenting with different whisky bases in a bid to create a spirit drink that delivers depth of flavour at a lower abv.
The resulting drink is said to offer notes of green apple, pink grapefruit and orange zest, and it is designed to be enjoyed neat, on the rocks or in a cocktail.
Master distiller Desmond Payne MBE was responsible for creating Beafeater Light at the Beefeater distillery in London. It contains the same nine botanicals used for Beefeater London Dry gin.
Both light brands are available in Spain in February.