The low and no category has hit the mainstream with consumer awareness of low & no increasing significantly over the last 12 months. Our brand new research, carried out in partnership with Peroni Libera 0.0%, highlights the continued growth of low and no. It found that nearly 1-in-2 consumers have now tried a low or no alcohol variant at home.

There’s no escaping the fact that 2020 has been a year like no other. Clearly, such circumstances are going to have a distinct impact on consumer behaviour. We are still seeing similar levels of desire from consumers to reduce the amount of alcohol they consume as we did in 2019. This suggests that as drinkers, we are increasingly becoming aware of the need to drink responsibly. That we understand the benefits associated with moderation. This is especially true for those in the 18-34 age bracket.

Awareness of low and no has skyrocketed

The new ‘Low and No 2021’ report shows that people are increasingly aware that low and no variants are available. Last year only 66% of UK adults had heard of non-alcoholic beer as a category. This year it is up to 75%. It’s a similar story across all alcohol categories.

2020 appears to have been the year in which low & no has entered the mainstream. Awareness has skyrocketed. With increases in advertising and editorial features across the media, as well as an increased focus on improving the ranges in supermarkets and hospitality venues, the challenge for brands now is to convert awareness into purchases.

Opportunity for hospitality to better serve the ‘alcohol-free’ customer occasion

The research shows that 1-in-4 visits to pubs last year did not involve alcohol. The figure is 1-in-3 for restaurants.

Jez Manterfield, Senior Category Manager at Asahi UK comments on the finding:

“The importance of alcohol alternatives, that are also high-quality and premium, is now indisputable and a non-negotiable aspect of any low or no alcohol range. The low and no category will continue to grow, as moderation becomes increasingly important factor and we’re absolutely committed to supporting the category and further innovation to meet the needs of consumers and our customers.”

The research questions whether hospitality venues are doing enough to provide for this non-alcoholic drinking occasion. It identified several key opportunities to improve both the non-alcoholic drinks options for customers and also to better communicate the range in venues.

Only 37% of customers rated the current range of low and no options in pubs as “good or very good”. The figure was 39% for restaurants. Both figures are down on last year.

Consumers say low and no range could be improved

We’ve actually seen a decline in those consumers rating ranges ‘very good or good’ across virtually all outlet types, that includes grocery retail. Increasing consumer demand in and knowledge of the category means both operators and brands must continue to work hard to ensure that consumer expectations are being met as competition for spend will become increasingly fierce as interest continues to rise. Low & no ranges will continue to evolve beyond the gimmicky into a must-stock category as demand and expectations increase.

We know from previous research that more than 1-in-2 consumers find it difficult to see which cans and bottles behind the bar are low and non-alcoholic versions of alcoholic drinks. Improving the visibility and communication of the ‘low and no’ range available is key, especially with so many new and unfamiliar brands entering the category.

Low and no consumption at home

The off-trade has done particularly well in 2020 at fulfilling the needs of the low and no customer. The research showed that low and no is being consumed on a plethora of occasions at home including 22% with their evening meal, 10% when watching sport on TV, and even 5% while working from home.

The research suggests that the off-trade lead the way with low and no in 2020, even in smaller convenience stores. 43% of UK adults consumed a low or no alcoholic drink at home in 2020. This is an increase on 2019, where that figure was 34%. 36% of UK adults purchased a low or no drink in a supermarket in 2020 compared with just 14% in a pub or bar. This ‘at home’ consumption is driven by GenZ and young Millennials. 

Traditional soft drink brands would do well to sit up and take notice. Given the high proportion of consumers who are now drinking low and no variants at home, they are now moving into consumption occasions traditionally dominated by soft drinks. These companies now have serious new competitors, in the ‘at home’ space at least, in the shape of the big brewers. Previous KAM research into the behaviour of “beer enthusiasts” during lockdown showed that many were looking for something different and new.

Low and no hits the mainstream

Manterfield comments:

“As consumer behaviour becomes increasingly driven by the mantra of ‘less but better’, it is clear to see that conscious consumption will drive the category, not just in January but all year round. We can expect low and no continue to move into an increasingly diverse array of social occasions, particularly during the warm summer months when consumers typically look to meet with friends and family and enjoy a chilled drink. The opportunity from these shifting consumer trends is huge and those that adapt and innovate accordingly will thrive.”

With nearly 1-in-3 adults intending to cut down their alcohol consumption in 2021 further growth in low and no seems inevitable. Hospitality venues simply cannot ignore the opportunities to better satisfy the low or no drinking occasion.

Click here to access the full research report (£99) or to find out more about this research.