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As sobriety and alcohol moderation become increasingly prevalent among consumers, the categories of non-alcoholic and low-alcohol beverages are expanding to meet growing demand.
The motive behind this growing trend is the notion of taking care of our health through more sensible consumption.
Mainstream spirits brands have perceived this trend and are offering an increasingly diverse range of such products, but they are not the only ones.
In recent years, pioneering brands in this new "NoLo" niche have focused primarily on "botanical spirits" such as gin.
This sector continues to grow rapidly, as a number of new arrivals hit the market. And the range on offer has broadened considerably, with new creations and substitutes for brown liquors (such as bourbon, tequila and rum) now available, as well as new options for aperitifs and different flavors.
The availability of these products has increased significantly due to their increased presence in supermarket chains, bars and specialist online retailers.
The Millennial generation has undoubtedly played a key role in all the latest market developments and trends. And this is no different for "no and low alcohol" products, as they reaffirm their search for singularity and strong choices, which is also a reflection of their high awareness of issues related to health and ethics.
The surge in this trend has intensified following the global upheaval in 2020. Besides the obvious threat posed by the disease, the pandemic also restricted personal travel and increased social isolation and economic instability. In this context, the importance of a healthy lifestyle has never been more pressing. In the drinks industry, functional choices have therefore continued their upward trajectory.
Personal health remains a significant motivator in product selection, particularly in more developed markets. The emphasis on function and well-being has led to alcohol-free alternatives now playing an increasingly important role in a diversified product portfolio.
This approach has seen a clearer trend toward Premium products. Consumers are generally looking for higher quality products, even if it means consuming less but better.
This flourishing category lends itself to new product launches:
With the gin boom in full swing, it is no wonder that the first wave of alcohol-free spirits focused first on creating an alternative to gin, which is distilled from botanicals. Non-alcoholic alternatives to other clear liquors, such as vodka, quickly followed, from brands such as Stryyk.
Brown spirits remain more of a challenge for manufacturers to recreate, as they rely on a combination of wood, time and alcohol to give them their flavor.
Pernod Ricard was among the first to attempt this with its Celtic Soul brand. Launched in mid-2019, it has been described as a non-alcoholic dark spirit.
As a general rule, it should be noted that:
Mainstream brands are moving forward: as the sector is maturing and production techniques are improving, the market is witnessing a number of brand extensions, with products launched under the name of existing parent brands.
Brand extensions: Many of the non-alcoholic spirits in the first wave have recently expanded their ranges (with different flavors)
Aperitifs: With the continued popularity of spritz and bitter aperitifs, small craft brands and multinationals alike are launching an increasing number of NoLo aperitifs.
Concentrates: There are a number of concentrated essences that offer consumers "the taste of gin" but with reduced alcohol content, especially if they are served in small measures! (See Hayman's = new gin "concentrate," called Small Gin, intended for use in smaller measures).
To meet the demand for differentiation for resolutely premium products, these new brands are making bold, sometimes sophisticated, packaging choices. They have no qualms about breaking from tradition in a bid to stand out, opting for containers with powerful, versatile designs.
No type of spirit escapes this quest for authenticity, local production and ethical, healthy products. While the market is dominated by gin, many new products are emerging in categories such as bourbon, rum, aperitifs, vodka and tequila, etc.