Consumers Thirsty for Low- and No-Alcohol Trend

Posted January 17, 2020 by Alyssa Stahr

A large part of my job is to research trends in the food and beverage industry. While I’m used to being wowed by constant innovation in our field that results in new ways of doing things and even new vocabulary (can we say upcycling and aquafaba?), there are some moments where I am genuinely surprised. Five years ago, I never thought I’d be reporting on this hot trend: “alcoholic” drinks that include low to zero alcohol. 

But then, my mind wanders around to other trends that are spurring this concept, and it makes sense. Healthful indulgence has been key for consumers in recent times within food products, so in hindsight it should come as no surprise that enjoying an adult beverage after a hard day at work should come without the added calories or hangover. Distillers and brewers, however, are now tasked with answering this important question: How can we equal the satisfaction of a good time and great taste with little to no alcohol? First, we turn to the consumer.

Consumer analytics company Social Standards found that although consumer conversations about alcohol are down 18%, which the company attributed to the health and wellness demand, consumer interest in low alcohol beverages has increased more than 80% in the last two years. And, Catherine Armstrong, VP of corporate communications for Comax Flavors, said that individuals are cutting back on drinking “for a variety of reasons, and many are looking for low or no alcohol beverages with fewer calories, less sugar and better-for-you profiles.”

“Conversations about non-alcoholic beverages are growing: but they are growing slowly — suggesting that consumers prefer moderation to complete abstinence,” Beverage Daily pointed out. Consumers are looking for mocktails, yes, but also non-alcoholic mixers and stand-alone drinks. And, since it’s such a new concept and category, they aren’t showing allegiance to particular brands — yet. Which leaves room for beverage makers to pour their way into consumers’ hearts. Beverage Daily said that brands “should consider aligning themselves with moderation, as unsexy as that sounds. Moderation is an easier win than telling consumers to abandon alcohol entirely.” 

But, as Beverage Daily said, it is a slow drip conversation. Over 70% of adult American consumers say they have not yet considered drinking low or no alcoholic beverages. However, it is the RTD category predicted to show the biggest growth: at 38.8% CAGR from 2018 to 2022. In fact, the first low and no ABV beverage trade show is coming to London in June — held at a brewery of course — and my prediction is that the United States will soon follow. 

The good news for new brands coming into the spotlight is that perceptions of low- to no-alcohol products are changing. No longer are consumers turning their noses up at the concept of drinks that don’t include alcohol. Instead, they are intrigued by the now socially-acceptable trend that provides new flavors and new experiences. Imagine the possibilities: One can now enjoy the taste of a cold beer at lunch and return to work without the buzz or possible worse consequences — a win-win for everyone.

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