Consumers prefer no rather than low-alcohol

10 May 2021

Beverage market analysis firm IWSR expects the no- and low-alcohol category to grow 31% by 2024, according to a new report that reviewed 10 key markets representing 75% of the global consumption of these beverages. The anaylzed markets were Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, South Africa, Spain, UK and U.S.

Within this emerging beverage segment, no-alcohol is taking the lead and outpacing the growth of the low-alcohol segment. Between 2019 and 2020, the no-alcohol category increased 4.5% whereas the low-alcohol segment declined 5.5% during the same time period. Within the markets analyzed, zero-alcohol beverages accounted for 66% of the volume.

Consumers prefer no rather than low-alcohol

While zero alcohol was more popular overall, the U.S. proved to be an exception to this trend where consumers prefer low-ABV beverages. Particularly for wine and RTD beverages in the U.S., low-alcohol wine represented 86.6% of the market share while low-alcohol RTD beverages held a 70% share.

However, In the UK, no-alcohol spirits far outweigh their low-alcohol counterparts, but in Australia and Germany, the popularity of the two types of reduced alcohol beverages are split down the middle.

In markets outside of the U.S, the fact that consumers prefer no-alcohol in their beverages does not mean that they are not imbibing. In fact, research from ISWR in February found that 58% of consumers are enjoying both full-strength alcoholic beverages alongside no- and low-alcoholic choices on the same occasion. Only 14% of consumers do not drink any alcohol.

Consumers are increasingly interested in curbing their alcohol consumption for health and wellness reasons, but few are willing to forego alcohol completely. Instead, they are searching for alternatives to moderate their intake. IWSR posited that this trend toward moderation for wellness has been a headwind for the low-alcohol beverage segment outside the U.S. since consumers are confused about ABV levels. Due to a lack of education and outreach, the analysis firm said that consumers remain uncertain how much low-alcohol is too much to consume before operating motor vehicles. With a non-alcoholic choice, these concerns are no longer a factor.

Despite consumers favoring non-alcoholic options, large distillers and breweries are focused on building both low- and no-alcohol alternatives. Diageo recently acquired a minority stake in Ritual Zero Proof, but it also manufacturers a lower-alcohol version of its Smirnoff vodka with 30% ABV rather than the 40% ABV bottled in the original Smirnoff.

Breweries have been particularly keen to jump on the bandwagon as beer sales have continued to slip over the past several years. AB InBev’s announced that it is working toward converting 20% of its global beer volume sales to no- and low-alcohol offerings by 2025. Guinness has introduced several non-alcoholic versions of its well-known brews and Heineken has its own zero-alcohol lager.

Despite the growing popularity of this segment, it remains small in comparison to the overall alcohol category. But, IWSR pointed to RTDs as a potential bright opportunity for manufacturers to continue to push the growth of low- and no-alcohol options due to the explosive growth of these beverages and the fact that they attract millennials, 66% of which are looking to reduce their alcohol consumption, according to Nielsen.

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