According to a study by the World Health Organisation, we’re drinking less than we did three decades ago and the trend shows no sign of evaporation.
Over the years, attitudes towards drinking have changed in a big way; health awareness, rising cost of drinks in pubs and bars and changing trends around drinking have all contributed to this attitude shift - with millennials making up a huge proportion of non-drinkers.
Not everyone wants a boozy drink when they visit the pub but they might be missing the taste of their favourite alcoholic beverages.
Alcohol brands have stepped up to the plate with an array of imitations across the board. Most beer brands have now expanded their repertoire of options, tweaking percentages to create endless varieties and flavours among the low-alcohol options.
On the more affordable end, there’s Heineken Alcohol-Free 0.0% Lager which seeks to provide an almost identical taste to the original alcoholic Heineken lager, while Brewdog’s Punk AF IPA is a serious contender on the craft end of the supermarket shelf - and that’s just beer.
Seedlip has disrupted its sector with its mock gin geared at the premium market, artfully concocted with herbs and botanicals. Seedlip has led an attitude shift in its sector, making abstinence cool, calm and collected - you won’t be spotted lying on the floor, passed out after a few of these.
Stryyk’s Not Rum 0% drink might fool you into thinking you’re drinking the brown spirit, but you’re most certainly not.
These are just a handful of the many drinks allowing people to have the experience of alcoholic drinks but also allowing drinkers to safely drive home at the end of the night. Now that’s a seriously attractive prospect.
'Clever brands know teetotalers still want the pomp and ceremony of drinking - without the side effects'
Clever drinks brands build enchanting stories around their products. They know that teetotalers still want the pomp and ceremony of drinking, say, a fine wine but don’t want the side effects that come with it.
Outside of the alcoholic drinks zone there are a treasure trove of examples. Tenzing sticks out as a particularly stylish option in a beautiful silvery-blue can.
A recipe inspired by the legendary sherpa, Tenzing Norgay, leads drinkers on a passage to India with an exotic ingredient list with light notes of Himalayan rose salt, guarana extract and green coffee beans. The drink is essentially a natural energy drink yet it brings some of the sophistication of alcohol by providing a complex palette of flavours and looks beautiful.
A spin of the globe takes the narrative to an English garden in a bottle: Fentiman’s Rose Lemonade is tinted rose pink and comes in a vintage-inspired glass bottle with nostalgic fonts. Much like Tenzing it also taps into the natural, botanical flavourings market. There’s a story to be told with every product and it’s just as essential to non-drinking consumers as it is to alcohol fans.
But who’s making up the biggest proportion of non-drinkers in the UK?
According to analysis from the NHS, young people in the UK are not drinking anywhere near as much as their elders. Nearly a third of the 10,000 16-24 year olds surveyed, said they never drink.
'Millennials can now drink to their hearts delight without fearing drunken social media exposés'
For a lot of young people, drinking less represents a lifestyle shift with good health is at the heart. Naturally, brands are cleverly finding ways to tap into this mindset and most importantly, not infantilising or ‘making fun’ of non-alcoholic options.
This is a generation brought up with huge and burgeoning consumer options so brands are having to work harder to impress with complex flavours, beautiful designs and creating their price category.
There is a sea change in attitudes to non-drinking to a far more enlightened, smart and tolerant view amongst that key group. Giving rise to the opportunity for brands to create genuinely cool and desirable non/low alcoholic drinks without the fear of being sneered at among their peers.
AB InBev has announced plans to expand its no-and-low-alcohol beer offerings, and Coca Cola has recently launched Bar None, a new non-alcoholic cocktail in a bottle that come in varieties such as ginger mule and Bellini spritz. Millennials can now drink to their hearts delight without fearing drunken social media exposés.
Non and low alcoholic drinks are helping make abstinence less of a taboo; offering sophisticated alternatives to their alcoholic counterparts that people should be proud to drink. We’re going to see a steady incline of new products being released to market over the next few years with events like Dry January and One Year No Beer gaining popularity.
The UK is experiencing a cultural shift that is making us a healthier nation. The successful brands in this group understand that non-drinkers still want the popping-open-a-bottle-of-champagne moment too, but without the hangover.
About the author: Mike Nolan (left) is CEO of the UK's largest independent survey in product innovation, Product of the Year UK. The initiative has been running in the UK for over 15 years with winning manufacturers spanning global names including Procter & Gamble, Coca Cola, RB, Unilever, Asda, Tesco, PepsiCo, Nestlé, Kimberley Clark and Mars.