As Christmas approaches, more Australians than ever before are choosing to drink less or switch to lower or non-alcoholic beverages. The trend has led suppliers to rapidly innovate in the mindful drinking space to meet increased consumer demand.
Recent DrinkWise research – which surveyed 3000 Australians – found a third of Australians (32%) who have reduced their alcohol consumption are using low and non-alcoholic options to cut back.
According to Sandy Mayo, Chief Marketing Officer at Accolade Wines, the trend has been accelerated by COVID-19, as personal health becomes a strong, motivating factor for making lifestyle changes.
“Consumers globally are more interested in wellbeing, so it’s little surprise that we are searching for lighter options across the board this Christmas, from the food we eat to the wine we sip,” she said.
“People want balance – they want to enjoy a glass of delicious wine without worrying about how they might feel later in the
day or the next morning. This has led to an increased consumer demand for low and no-alcohol options, not just at Christmas but all year round, to help people embrace a more balanced lifestyle.”
Mayo said she applauds initiatives by the Australian drinks industry in this space, such as the new store format launched by DrinkWise into a BWS in Queensland last month that highlights mindful choices – dedicated zero, low and mid-strength sections are featured front and centre of the store.
“Supporting a healthy drinking culture around the world has always been an important priority for Accolade Wines,” Mayo said. “We believe that appreciation of wine plays a fundamental part in supporting moderate consumption of our products.
“We thought the DrinkWise initiative was a fantastic idea and a signal to market that the industry takes the responsible alcohol consumption seriously. Accolade already partners with DrinkWise through several initiatives and are increasingly finding ways to promote mindful messaging throughout our content and point of sale. As a wine company with such a broad portfolio, we are focused on empowering consumers to make informed decisions while appreciating our products.”
Huge growth in low-alcohol wine category
Between 2015 and 2020 the global non- and low-alcohol wine category grew by 25%, and the growth rate forecast for the next five years by drink market analysts IWSR is 15% per year on average, compared to less than 1% per year for total wine volume.
In Australia, low-alcohol wines have grown by 27% over the past year. According to Mayo, these wines appeal to older and younger shoppers alike.
Accolade’s Tatachilla White Admiral is now the No.2 lower alcohol wine brand nationally. It’s a brand designed to appeal to and create excitement among millennials. Millennials, predominantly female, have played a strong role in the rise of mindful drinking globally.
Inspired by coastal living and a relaxed approach, the contemporary consumer-led innovation is designed to leverage the 1–6pm daytime occasion, where wine is currently under-represented. The White Admiral range has an 9% ABV and includes the high-growth varietals rosé and pinot grigio (which are up 27% and 8% respectively according to IRI Market Edge Australia Liquor Weighted MAT 12/9/21).
“Increasingly, people want to retain a sense of control and moderate their alcohol consumption,” Mayo said. “Perhaps they are at a work function and want to be careful not to overindulge, or perhaps they will be driving after dinner and want a lighter option to enjoy a glass or two without worrying about being over the limit.
“We have expanded our low-alcohol range across our portfolio, which includes Banrock Station and Tatachilla. We have also been working on developing new and exciting low and no-alcohol products that will enable consumers to drink with moderation, without compromising on taste.”
Mayo said it’s crucial for winemakers not to underestimate the importance of taste when creating lower and non-alcoholic wines.
“Even though we are seeing this betterment trend and rise of mindful drinking driving Australian consumers towards low-alcohol and low-calorie wines, it’s essential that flavour or quality isn’t sacrificed,” she explained. “A few years ago, the perception was that low and no-alcohol or low-calorie wine meant a compromise on taste. Research shows that 48% of people who drink lower alcohol wines do so as they enjoy the taste. We are focused on bringing new products to market that we believe offers consumers low-alcohol premium wines with great taste.”
Mayo said the Tatachilla White Admiral range is a personal favourite, because it is “easy to drink and very refreshing”.
“It’s perfect for a warm afternoon lunch when you want to maintain control, feel refreshed and not compromise on taste,” she said.
The rise of canned wine
Accolade has also just launched its first canned wine range into the Australian market – Yarra Burn Spritz. The lightly spritzed wines are available in four styles: Prosecco, Rose Spritz, Cuvee Spritz, and Prosecco Spritz with Orange Bitters. The 100% recyclable slimline cans have a lower alcohol content of 9% and Mayo said there has already been a great response from customers and consumers.
Demand for refreshment, flavour and convenience has grown, alongside the zero-waste aspect of the ready-to-drink can, signalling this new wine trend is here to stay. The can category growth in Australia is driven by sparkling, which has grown 51% in the last year, an increase of $4 million.
“Yarra Burn Spritzes is another new can innovation from Accolade Wines, tapping into not only the trend around moderation and healthier choices but also drink formats with less environmental impact,” Mayo said. “This offers consumers a stylish, single serve can that is also lower in alcohol.
“Traditionally, sparkling wines were only considered for special or celebratory occasions. With innovations like the Yarra Burn Spritzes, this new convenient format also helps open up casual occasions for sparkling, which is obviously very relevant as we move into summer and the festive season.
“Being in Melbourne, picnics have become a big thing as we head out of lockdown, so I have also been enjoying the Yarra Burn Rosé Spritz with friends in the park.”
As for what’s next in the mindful sector, Mayo said the next year will see Accolade Wines further expand its focus across sustainability, new formats and premium wine offerings.
“We are gearing up to launch several new products across our portfolio of brands that tap into the macro consumer trends
of Better for Me and Better for the Planet that we are seeing gain momentum globally,” she said. “We have further innovations in the pipeline that enable moderation for consumers without a compromise on taste. Watch this space!”
Supporting the on-premise
It’s been exciting to see Australia reopening and Mayo (above) said she’s loving the buzz among her team and on-premise customers.
“We are working closely with all our customers to support them as they re-open,” she said. “We are particularly proud of how we have kept our on-premise sales team focused on our customers during extended lockdowns. We have completed virtual masterclass tastings, focused on virtual education with our wholesaler partners and supported with meals for staff who had their hours reduced. This has allowed us to create joint business plans and re-opening offers that will not only support but
accelerate our On-premise recovery.
“We are also very excited about the fact that more people will be able to travel interstate to visit some of our amazing Cellar Doors in South Australia to experience the homes of many of our sensational wines including Hardys Tintara Cellar Door in McClaren Vale, St Hallett in the Barossa and, of course, our Banrock Station home in the Riverland region.
As for her colleagues, she said a number of new people have joined the Accolade team, so it will be a first-time meeting in-person for many.
“As a wine company, there is always a reason to celebrate with tastings of new innovations and product launches,” she concluded. “We have kept up many of these activities while working virtually, so we are looking forward to hopefully doing more in-person over the coming months!”