Low and non-alcoholic beverages – passing trend or here to stay?

August 10, 2023

Looking at the trends influencing the boom in low- and no-alcohol drinks, and opportunities for further growth:

Drinkers are increasingly saying ‘yes!’ to NoLo. Non-alcoholic beverages have fast become a big drinks trend as moderating alcohol intake suits wider economic and health trends.

The category is forecast to continue enjoying real-term growth in the coming years, including predictions of 48% volume sales growth and 69% value sales growth to 2027* – continuing its upward trajectory. Low and no-alcohol drinks already delivered volume and value sales growth of 108% and 119%, respectively, between 2017-2022*.

Young people are driving this growth, with 64% of 18-24-year-olds and 57% of under 45s enjoying low- or no-alcohol alternatives*. Most are motivated by the desire to manage stable finances and improve or maintain good health. The cost-of-living crisis is forcing shoppers to really consider their discretional spending, and this is coupled with people exploring mindful drinking and reporting a feel-good factor from switching to low- or no-alcohol beverages.

non-alcoholic beverages outlet

Non-alcoholic beverages make this more appealing all around, still offering the same tastes, rituals and appearance as their alcoholic counterparts. Millions of people took part in Dry January this year according to charity Alcohol Change UK, or even just ‘Damp’ January; either cutting out or cutting back on booze. And exclusive venues, awards ceremonies, and even festivals have popped up to promote mindful drinking while growing numbers of celebrities have shared their stories of sobriety.

The category can comfortably meet increased demand given how non-alcoholic beverages have been improved and repositioned in recent years too, with refined recipes improving the taste and marketing drives clearly aligning with consumer values and trends.

What kind of non-alcoholic beverages and drinks are popular?

All categories of alcoholic drinks have been recreated as alcohol-free alternatives, from the most popular beers and ciders to wines, spirits and even aperitifs. Of these, beers continue to dominate the market, but sales of non-alcoholic spirits and non-alcoholic ready-to-drink beverages have grown hugely too.

non alcoholic beverages

Almost all of the big brands have diversified and extended their ranges to include low- or no-alcohol alternatives while smaller and own-label brands are also delivering strong sales and attracting the interest of the more savvy shoppers.

What is driving the popularity of NoLo drinks?

Refinements and improvements to recipes have hugely helped non-alcoholic beverages to become more popular, improving the taste and mouthfeel of drinks.

Now the cost-of-living crisis and alcohol moderation trends will fuel further growth. Saving money is now as much a motivator for mindful drinking as improving health – 38% of drinkers have reduced their alcohol intake to save money in the last 12 months, while 39% have done so to improve health*.

Are there any challenges for brands of non-alcoholic beverages?

Despite the category growth, there are still some hurdles or threats to be mindful of. As more consumers need to be careful with their spending, soft drinks could better benefit from this. And many shoppers still see NoLo products as overpriced, which presents challenges through the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.

How could non-alcoholic beverage sales grow further?

Brands can boost perceptions of the quality and value of products by developing flavour complexity. Using aromas or warming ingredients to develop more complex flavours, for example, will heighten the drinking experience and demonstrate better value for money.

Sharing how NoLo drinks are developed, including how de-alcoholisation techniques have advanced to not impact flavours, will also boost perceptions and educate shoppers on a drink’s quality and craftsmanship.

Brands of non-alcoholic beverages could also tap into new demographics or promote new usage occasions for NoLo drinks. Targeting older drinkers – using alcohol-free versions of wines or bitters, for example – could appeal to the many over-55s who already abstain from alcohol. Increasing the visibility of the category by offering non-alcoholic beverages in meal deal promotions could also reach new drinkers and change perceptions of the category.

functional non-alcoholic beverages

There is also untapped potential to build on the wider drinks trend for functional beverages. Adding vitamins, minerals or ingredients that offer emotional, physical or functional health benefits will differentiate a drink and further improve the value offering of NoLo drinks. Some NoLo beers are already offering these, adding nootropics, electrolytes or caffeine to set booze-free brews apart from standard adult soft drinks.

There is also potential to translate the positives of soft drinks, like affordability and portability, into new non-alcoholic ready to drink beverages, too. Two-thirds of drinkers would like to see more premixed alcohol-free cocktails*.

Non-alcoholic beverages are clearly a drinks trend here to stay, with a wealth of opportunities available to brands of non-alcoholic beverages.

At Simpson’s Beverages, we are experts in making flavours for mocktails, non-alcoholic spirits and RTD mocktails as well as adult soft drinks, premium lemonades and tonics. Chat to our team for guidance and support on how to start capitalising on non-alcoholic beverage trends.

*Mintel – Attitudes towards Low- & No-Alcohol Drinks UK 2022

Image source: Trendhub The Food People 2023

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