In celebration of the launch of KAM’s new low and no research report, we’ve spoken to a number of industry experts to gain different perspectives on the Low and No opportunity. In this blog Jez Manterfield, Senior Category Manager, Asahi UK Ltd, shares his thoughts on why Low and No is growing, and why Asahi have invested in Low and No.

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

Moderation and balance have been shaping consumer trends for a significant time now and we’re really starting to see this take hold in the beer category and the wider alcohol drinks sector. Premiumisation is also playing a key role as consumer purchasing decisions are increasingly being driven by the mantra of “not more but better”.

However, beyond the notion of moderation, comes the growing trend of curiosity and exploration amongst consumers. Low and No is perfectly placed to meet a desire for discovery and support the expansion of drinking occasions for a wide range of people, settings, moods and tastes. Adding to this the growing sophistication of the market, the future potential for this segment is vast and exciting.

The future of the Low and No category is hugely promising and certainly set for further growth.

The disruption of the past year has blurred the picture slightly in terms of understanding the bigger and long-lasting trends. What brands and operators should take away from the past 12 months is that there is still a strong intention from consumers to explore Low and No options. This is particularly prevalent amongst Gen-Z and Millennials. Many consumers have taken the opportunity of lockdowns to reset and reassess their lifestyles and this will only strengthen the move towards more balance and moderation. The future of the Low and No category is hugely promising and certainly set for further growth.

Alcohol-free beer is fairly mainstream now. How has the category grown and what do you see the role of alcohol-free beer going forward? 

Low and No beer has been through a period of innovation with a real focus on quality. In fact, removing perceptions about a lack of quality and poor taste has been key in helping Low and No feel more accepted and ‘normalised’. Choosing a Low and No option no longer means having to experience lesser quality. There has also been a raft of innovation and investment from brewers over the past year which has really provided vibrancy to the category.

However, negative perceptions around quality and taste still remain, so further establishing and growing the category will need a continued focus on this and breaking down those misapprehensions about Low and No.

Tell us about the alcohol-free beer consumer? 

As 1 in 3 of Gen Z who are of drinking age are now teetotal, the younger demographic of 18-34-year olds are still the most archetypal alcohol-free consumer. At home, the most common occasions and increasingly popular due to the circumstances of the last year are ‘nights in’, whether that be a family dinner or a movie night. We anticipate once the on-trade is reopened that mid-week dinners, after-work drinks, and meeting up with friends will dominate the occasions when consumers choose Low and No options.

However, there are many more reasons and occasions when consumers choose a Low and No alcohol option and it’s important that both producers, operators and retailers provide them with that freedom of choice on all occasions.

Why did you decide to launch Peroni Libera?

We launched Peroni Libera in 2019 in light of changing drinking habits we were seeing as consumers were looking toward a more balanced lifestyle with or without alcohol and as such introduced the first super-premium alcohol-free beer to the UK market. As part of the iconic Peroni portfolio, we were able to harness the years of expertise and skill to bring a stylish alternative to the non-alcoholic segment where consumers wouldn’t have to compromise on quality or taste.

The launch is part of Peroni’s continued commitment to empowering consumers with freedom of choice as can be seen by our track record of successful innovations such as Peroni Nastro Azzurro Gluten-Free in 2016 and Peroni Libera in 2019.

KAM research shows that Low and No is in demand both in the on-trade and increasing in the off-trade, especially this year as people have spent so much time at home. How are you looking to grow ‘at home’ consumption?

We see significant opportunities in both the on and off-trade. For the off-trade, the ‘Big night in’ has historically been dominated by fizzy drinks when it comes to a non-alcoholic option. However, with more choice comes more exploration, and we are confident that Low and No options will become a clear staple for these moments.

Targeting mid-week occasions with a good Low and No offer will be crucial to many operators’ long-term recovery and business health.

As the on-trade reopens and we start to hopefully move to a post-covid normality – targeting mid-week occasions with a good Low and No offer will be crucial to many operators’ long-term recovery and business health. As the Low and No category continues to establish itself amongst the consumer the opportunities and occasions for consumption will only continue to grow.

What’s your one piece of advice for pubs, bars and restaurants looking to improve their offer for people who don’t want an alcoholic drink?

Firstly, ensure each of your customer’s experience of Low and No alcohol in venue is of a high standard. Using a Low and No beer as an example ensuring it is served at the correct temperature and with the correct glassware is essential.

A greater emphasis has to be put on communicating your range through your staff.

Also, how you engage the customer with your range and offer is hugely important – with covid measures likely to still be in venue once the sector initially reopens moving the point of purchase away from the bar a greater emphasis has to be put on communicating your range through your staff and through POS and digital menus.

And what advice would you give off-trade retailers trying to improve their low and no range?

There now has to be a dedicated range of Low and No alcohol products in-store to make the most of the opportunity. Consumers are now more discerning and knowledgeable and want to be able to really engage with a range that offers them choice and a chance of exploration. Proper merchandising of a Low and No range and ensuring a selection of alcohol-free products are kept chilled in-store will facilitate this and also help drive purchase.

Where do you see the future of the low and no category? How will it evolve?

Low and No is certainly here to stay and we see this as a large part of our future here at Asahi and have pledged that 20% of our portfolio globally will be Low and No focused by 2030.

20% of our portfolio globally will be Low and No focused by 2030.

We’re obviously aware of the tremendous amount of work it will take to grow our portfolio to this level but are absolutely committed to doing this through ensuring each experience of our Low and No product is to the absolute top standard and through continued innovation to expand the category and ensure it fulfills its potential.

And there you have it. Thank you, Jez. KAM’s research report – Low+No 2021: The Customer Perspective – is available now and you can read some headlines in our latest blog.