Low and No alcohol – the brand perspective

As part of our focus on low and no, we’re sharing a series of interviews with industry experts giving a different perspective on the growth in low and no drinks. We’ll be hearing from alcohol free spirits brands, low and no beer brands, retailers and on-trade operators.

Gone are the days when someone would walk into a pub or bar, not wanting alcohol, and be satisfied with a lime and soda (were they ever?) Pub-goers are now looking for, and expecting, the same level of choice and taste experience from non-alcoholic menus as they would get if they if they were drinking alcohol.

25% of Generation Z now class themselves as tee-total. 1-in-4 pub/bar visits are now alcohol-free. So, there is no doubt that demand for an exciting, satisfying non-alcoholic range will increasingly be demanded by customers.

We caught up with Alex Carlton, who founded Funkin Cocktails in 1999, and has more recently launched Stryyk. Stryyk are a range of alcohol free spirits which have been created to act just like their alcoholic spirit counterparts and swap easily into existing cocktail recipes.

We asked him to give his view on the growth in low and no and alcohol free, from a drinks brand perspective.

What do you think is driving the growth in demand for Low and No?

The move towards abstinence is certainly gathering pace amongst young adults which is being driven by a multitude of factors. These include the rising cost of alcohol, concerns over health and the pressures of social media. Ultimately being drunk no longer fits in with their lifestyle.

With one in five adults now not drinking in the UK, the demand for low and no alcohol is gathering pace exponentially.

“It’s time for the on-trade to sit up and take action by offering consumers a choice that extends beyond soft drinks and mocktails”

For the consumer older than their late 20s, though, moderation is a bigger motivator for low and no product consumption. Just 9% of UK consumers who have purchased low or no alcohol in the last 6 months are teetotal. People are choosing their occasion to drink alcohol more wisely. This makes perfect sense with consumers looking for more experience driven on-trade visits versus purely drink-led visits.

There is a huge number of consumers drinking smarter and questioning their consumption rates, which is wholly evident by the 6 million ‘Dry January’ sign ups in 2020.

Alex Carlton launched Stryyk – a range of alcohol free spirits – in 2018

Why did you decide to launch STRYYK?

STRYYK was launched in 2018, the second alcohol free spirit to hit the market. It is a bid to satisfy the increasing demand for a quality, modern and stylish alternative to alcohol.

It is distilled and bottled in the UK and the range consists of NOT GIN, NOT RUM and NOT VODKA. In June this year, we were delighted to receive the backing of AG Barr with a £1m investment, providing validation of the alcohol free spirit category, the STRYYK brand and our team’s achievements so far.

“Consumers don’t want to have to compromise on taste and ritual simply because they are choosing not to drink alcohol”

The brand was developed over two years with the help of some of London’s top bartenders to deconstruct the various elements and profiles of spiced rum, London dry gin and traditional vodka, to create our own interpretation of a premium 0% ABV alternative.

Consumers don’t want to have to compromise on taste and ritual simply because they are choosing not to drink alcohol. Our products are designed to look, act and taste just like their alcoholic counterparts.

Where do you see the future of the low and no category? 

Like so many consumption rituals, seismic change follows more public debate and education. Learning about the provenance of the meat and dairy markets has hugely affected the products that people consume. Some brands are really empowering people by offering products that still exist within their repertoire. We see the long-term health of this category emulating this.

Brands like ‘Beyond Meat’ and ‘Oatly’ are challenging the concepts of ‘meat’ and ‘milk’ respectively. Just as we want to challenge the concept of a ‘cocktail’, or what it means to go out for a ‘drink’. The majority of their customers are also meat or dairy consumers too. It’s right in line with who we’re already seeing as the early adopters of low and no alcohol products.

There’s plenty of space for low and no brands of other natures, too. But the brands without the attention to detail, quality, and not doing what their target consumer actually wants, will almost certainly drop out. So many are scrambling to get a piece of the action right now.

“There’s a long way to go but we don’t see the movement slowing down at all.”

Any advice for operators on how to grow the category?

Be inclusive. Our STRYYK menu hack offers consumers and operators the option to both extend and condense their non-alcoholic offering on menu. By placing a STRYYK asterisk next to any vodka, gin or rum cocktail, and swapping in the relevant STRYYK product, drinks can easily have an alcohol-free option.

It removes the barrier for the consumer considering a non-alcoholic cocktail purchase by way of familiarity.  It helps the trade up from lower priced, sugar-driven soft drinks.

For us, having a non-drinker enjoy exactly the same cocktail as someone who is drinking alcohol, in exactly the same venue, at exactly the same time – now, that’s real inclusivity. We see “mocktails” as a thing of the past, laced with stigma and pressurised questions like “Why aren’t you drinking, are you ill?”

If a non-drinker can be truly included and catered for, in exactly the same way that operators already do with alcohol drinkers, then that’s good for the consumer, and even better for business.

 

And there you have it. Thank you, Alex. Alcohol free spirits will never be the same again!

If you’d like to read about low and no from a non-alcoholic beer brand perspective, a retail perspective or even the customer perspective, please keep checking back for new blogs.

KAM’s research report – Low+No: The Customer Perspective – is available now.