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The case for a new era of health-conscious drinkers

Emma Thackray, founder of kombucha start-up Hip Pop, takes a look at the drinks industry’s opportunity to seize the growing low and no-alcohol category
Emma and Kenny founded kombucha firm Hip Pop in 2019

The pandemic has caused many of us to re-evaluate our lifestyles, with more people paying close attention to their health and overall wellbeing. 

Research from Heineken shows that, by early 2020, the no and low-alcohol sector had grown by 36% and was worth £94 million. Consumer mindsets have shifted towards healthier options and drinks brands have been handed the ideal opportunity to cater to those seeking products with a lower Alcohol By Volume [ABV]. 

With this in mind, now is the time for brands to embrace the changes in consumer habits, prepare themselves for future possibilities and adjust current product ranges accordingly. 

Changes in consumer habits 

The increased selection of low and no-alcohol alternatives is offering more choice to those looking to reduce their alcohol consumption.

Surveys have shown that half of UK adults are either not drinking alcohol or are planning to cut down on their consumption, meaning there is a potential addressable market of 25 million people. The appeal of low and no-alcohol alternatives is grabbing the attention of consumers and altering perceptions of what is considered ‘on-trend’. 

Interestingly, drinkers are no longer searching for non-alcoholic replicas of their favourite beer or cider, but rather are seeking out taste, quality, and credibility in alternatives. 

One study conducted by alcohol-alternative community Club Soda found that low and no-alcohol drinks accounted for 10% of Google searches for alcoholic drinks, with key motivators for consumers making the switch being weight loss (26%), physical health (38%) and mental health (43%). 

Increased focus on health and wellness

Club Soda’s report highlighted that 90% of adults surveyed would stop purchasing from brands that lacked transparency, while three quarters would switch to those that openly provided detailed product information. 

Drinks businesses have the opportunity to maximise their health credentials through natural ingredients that can help reach the growing number of health-conscious customers. Many drinkers are turning to natural alternatives over products traditionally filled with sugars and artificial sweeteners. 

Future possibilities

According to Club Soda’s report, if annual sales of low or no-alcohol drinks matched the interest being shown by consumers, the market would be worth close to £5 billion in the UK, which presents a great growth opportunity in a category that is changing the landscape of the drinks industry. 

While drinks market researcher, the ISWR, found that supermarket sales of low or no-alcoholic drinks rose by 50% between 2020 and 2021, consumers are now searching for their alternatives beyond the aisles of major retailers. 

Club Soda’s data suggested that 48% of the adults surveyed were keen to order their drinks online, while up to 55% were buying in bars and pubs and 23% in restaurants.

Foodservice and hospitality venues should seize the opportunity to make their menus more inclusive so they can allow non-alcohol drinkers the same great taste experience as those looking for traditional alcoholic beverages. 

We have just entered a new wave of innovation in the alternatives space and retail and hospitality industries can certainly benefit from good quality offerings. 

The increased focus on health and wellness, coupled with greater consumer emphasis on taste and experience, means drinks businesses are now being urged to get creative with their low or no-alcohol alternatives. 

Larger brewers may be shaping the category for the moment, but smaller independent brands have the chance to carve out their niche within a popular category, which the ISWR predicts will grow a further 31% by 2024.

[Bio]

Emma Thackray co-founded kombucha start-up Hip Pop in 2019 after selling off her nutritional supplements business Hello Pure. Hip Pop was formerly known as Booch & Brew and recently launched a CBD-infused product offering.  

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