What’s up with No & Low?

Let’s take a stroll down memory lane to where it all began. Alcohol's heritage is as old as civilization itself, with our ancestors in the Neolithic period fermenting the first fruits into intoxicating concoctions. In China, rice wine flowed as early as 9000 years ago! Researchers found remnants of fermented rice residue on pottery in the little village of Jiahu. These beverages weren't just for pleasure; they were central to cultural rituals and social fabric.

An ancient lidded jar from the Anyang region of China
is thought to have contained wine 3,000 years ago. 

The craft of winemaking, once a divine art, has continuously adapted to the times. Consider the Romans and their treasured Falernian wine. A strong white wine made from Aglianico grapes and highly popular due to it’s high alcohol content of 15-30% — a stark reminder that tastes and preferences are forever in flux. Today, we're witnessing a contemporary twist in the narrative: a move towards no and low-alcohol beverages that reflect our evolving lifestyle priorities. 

The Allure of Premium No and Low-Alcohol Options

There’s a new trend on the block, and it’s all about refinement and choice. Today's consumers aren't just looking for alternatives; they're demanding premium no and low-alcohol products. These discerning drinkers are ready to invest in quality, and producers are rising to the occasion.

 Reflecting this, the no-alcohol market has seen impressive growth, with volumes expanding by 9% in 2022, now making up 70% of the total no/low category in the top markets worldwide. Even more compelling, these products are projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of +7% from 2022 to 2026. This surge is driven by those who alternate between alcoholic and non-alcoholic options, a group which now includes 41% of no/low consumers.

Generational Shifts and Regional Differences

Who’s behind this burgeoning market? The data points to the younger crowd, with Gen Z leading the charge in new recruits, particularly in France where 25% of no-alcohol consumers joined the ranks in 2022. Meanwhile, the US sees a significant number of Millennial consumers, who now make up 43% of the no/low demographic.

It's not just about who’s drinking, but also what they’re replacing. No-alcohol options are often swapped in for soft drinks or water, adding a new dimension to the drinking experience. In fact, in the UK, the gap is closing between the replacement of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, suggesting that no-alcohol options are increasingly seen as viable stand-ins for their boozy counterparts.

Looking Ahead: The Future of No and Low-Alcohol Beverages

The future looks bright for no and low-alcohol beverages, with innovation and technology paving the way for even more tantalizing options. As the industry evolves, so does the opportunity for these beverages to carve out their own space in the mainstream market, particularly in on-trade settings, as we've seen in Spain, according to International Wines and Spirits Record (IWSR).

The financial aspect also deserves attention: the pricing of these no and low-alcohol products is beginning to mirror that of their alcoholic counterparts. This trend reflects the complex and meticulous processes required to capture the complex flavours traditionally associated with alcohol. Consumers, understanding the correlation between price and quality, appear increasingly willing to embrace this price point. This shift suggests a deepening appreciation for the artistry and craftsmanship that goes into creating these sophisticated beverages.

Raising a Glass to the Future

As we toast to the rich history that stretches from the sun-drenched ancient vineyards to the clinking glasses in contemporary gatherings, it's evident that our bond with alcohol is as enduring as it is ever-evolving. The flourishing interest in no and low-alcohol beverages reflects a society that is expanding its horizons, seeking balance and mindfulness while still cherishing the time-honoured traditions of winemaking and spirit distillation.

Whether one savours the robust complexity of a full-bodied red or delights in the subtle nuances of an alcohol-free alternative, every choice is a celebration of personal preference and a tribute to the age-old art of the vine. Here's to the future — one that respects the legacy of the past while toasting to the innovations that await.

Cheers to that!