Social Standards looked at conversations on social media to gauge the interest and interaction with key US beverage categories. It found that consumer conversations about beverage alcohol are down 18% overall, and even a spike in the summer months did not reach 2018 levels. This is attributed primarily to the health and wellness trend.
But consumer interest in low alcohol beverages is on the rise: increasing more than 80% in the last two years.
And what’s more, the low alcohol conversations are consistent month-over-month: implying that interest in low alcohol products is not limited to initiatives such as Dry January.
“The data suggests that moderation isn’t just a fad — it’s a trend that’s likely to have major repercussions for the beverage alcohol industry,” according to Social Standards.
Early days for the category
Conversations about non-alcoholic beverages are growing: but they are growing slowly – suggesting that consumers prefer moderation to complete abstinence.
Generally consumer discussion of non-alcoholic products is not yet heavily associated with any specific beverage categories. The report found a 15% MoM increase of consumers repeatedly talk about non‑alcoholic topics and “mock-tails”, a percentage that’s nearly doubled over the past few years.
“Consumers interested in non‑alcoholic drinks are specifically in search of refreshing options. However, they aren’t just looking for mocktails. They’re equally interested in non‑alcoholic drinks that could function as mixers or stand‑alone beverages,” says Devon Bergman, CEO and co-founder of Social Standards.
And in the same way that consumers are not yet showing a strong affiliation to any particular category; neither are they showing a strong connection to any particular brands. Nor are there any brands that are really owning the category.
“At this point there’s not much brand ownership in consumers’ minds in regard to the no- and low-alcohol category," said Bergman.
“There aren’t many no-alcohol alcohol brands period, and mocktails and cocktails don’t usually have brands associated with them.
“Beer is a little different because there are more branded options, but even there no one really owns the non-alcoholic category. Heineken—a massive brewer—currently has 2% market share of conversation. Its closest competitors in the space have around 0.2% of conversation, which is similar to the volume of non-alcoholic conversations about brands like Sprite and Coke. That makes sense: non-alcoholic brands aren’t competing with alcohol, they’re competing with soft drinks and mocktails. There’s a ton of white space opportunity here, but no clear winners yet.”
How to be THE brand in the no/low alcohol category
So what lesson does this hold for brand owners and marketers of low and no ABV products? A key aspect is holding up low and no alcohol brands as a positive choice, says Bergman.
“Brands who want to own the low- and no-alcohol category should consider aligning themselves with moderation - as unsexy as that sounds. Moderation is an easier win than telling consumers to abandon alcohol entirely.
“Positioning your low- or no-alcohol product as a way to still go out instead of staying home entirely while avoiding ugly after-effects like hangovers can help your brand integrate into consumers’ current lifestyles and routines.”