The advent of the no- and low-alcohol wine category might seem perplexing to some considering that, for sellers in this market, product sales and alcohol content have often come hand-in-hand.
A 2021 Wine Intelligence report found that three out of 10 regular wine drinkers in the US could recognize no-alcohol and low-alcohol wine offerings — relatively high awareness for a category that has only found footing in the US in the last two years.
Still, the growth of the no-low wine category has largely been impacted by general heightened interest in no-low alcohol offerings and not necessarily a consumer response to current wine offerings in that category — until now.
As drinking habits change, especially among Millennial and older Gen Z drinkers, so too must the offerings in this space. But untangling market trends is just one requirement to properly grasp this emergent and evolving category; gathering and understanding consumer perspectives into meaningful points of action are a different beast altogether. Below is a summarization of AMC Global’s recent market research insights, secondary studies and the consumer perspectives we’ve uncovered in the no-low wine category.
Vintage Consumers, Fresh Notes
A recent study performed by Wine Intelligence played witness to a mass exodus of younger generation consumers from the wine market. In 2010, 32% of all regular U.S. wine drinkers were aged 55 and over, and as of 2020, nearly 50% of all American monthly wine drinkers were aged 55 and over.
Despite this, the same study found that Millennial and drinking-aged Gen Z regular wine drinkers are more willing to spend big on everyday wines and put a premium on the content of their alcoholic beverages, particularly those with organic origins, lower carbs and calories, and ‘natural’ profiles.
Enter the no-low category: a frontier on which wine producers, in the hopes of capturing younger markets, see increasing opportunity. Our recent study into the no-low trend found that 28% of consumers are very interested in no-low wine options. And, for Millennial women, red and white wine are top, go-to alcoholic beverage options when drinking.
Given these factors, it makes perfect sense that, as health conscious Millennials and Gen Z drinkers age, they might reach for familiar products — albeit in a healthier, less caloric form. Regardless, product managers and producers looking to capitalize on this evolving relationship to wine amongst younger drinkers will need solid, foundational research to inform intersecting challenges in this category and to understand the complex individuals themselves who make up their prospective consumer base.
Paying Attention to the Senses
One of the biggest hurdles to entering the no-low wine arena comes down to the most basic quality of the product itself: taste. The dealcoholization process for wine is an expensive and laborious one that requires that flavor be reintroduced to wine after processing to recover the qualities of aroma and taste oenophiles seek.
Professional mixologist Chris Cardone, when commenting for a piece on Wine-Searcher, noted that, “[someone's] choice on whether or not to drink alcohol when going to a restaurant or bar shouldn't have a huge impact on their experience, and offering a person who chooses not to drink options is so important in today's world.”
Those entering the no-low wine space, be it wine makers or distributors, will need to put full-focus on the impact of taste on product perception and experience, utilizing both targeted marketing groups and taste tests to truly grasp the innovation opportunities and potential for in-market success surrounding their offerings.
The dealcoholization process creates obstacles when it comes to packaging and product development as well. Expert winemaker Yoko Sato notes that, “without alcohol, you have an extremely vulnerable product.” Her company Freixenet works at extremely low temperatures, bottles quickly, and finds the reduced shelf life of non-alcoholic wine — just two years — a continued challenge.
Our own research into no-low packaging trends has found that 65% of study participants preferred no-low options in a single-serve glass bottle, followed by single-serve cans (62%). This may spell opportunity for no-low wine options looking to maximize on retail space while minimizing waste. Utilizing research to illuminate additional insight into the ideal weight, packaging viability, and visual appeal of no-low wine products before launch will ensure less friction come production time.
Decant New Opportunities
By 2024, the no-low wine category market share is expected to grow by 34% and with it new opportunities for winemakers and producers to reach new audiences, expand flavor-saving technologies, and challenge the palette of the average wine drinker without sacrificing nutrition.
While the cultural stronghold of wine isn’t going anywhere, aging Millennial and Gen Z populations will continue to push brands in this space to reimagine their offerings for a new, sober-curious consumer base. Because of its relative newness and the complicated nature of bringing no-low wine offerings out of R&D and into the hands of customers, this category requires dedicated, in-the-moment market research and insights more than any of the other categories in the burgeoning no-low alcohol space.
That being said: diligent brands with an eye to the future (and a nose for flavor) will easily find footing in this developing market — if they're willing to put in the legwork.
About the author: Shira Horn serves as Executive Vice President for AMC Global, a market research firm that specializes in product launch strategies, with an innovative suite of tools that span the full product lifecycle. With 20 years of deep market research experience, Shira is an expert in the space, advising clients on how to leverage insights and grow brands.