The Tide is Turning: Increasing demand for alcohol-free drinks raises our spirits

Diageo's investment in the world's first distilled non-alcoholic spirit, Seedlip, suggests that the consumption of alcohol-free drinks is on the rise

Diageo’s investment in the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirit, Seedlip, suggests that the consumption of alcohol-free drinks is on the rise

The UK drinks market is undergoing rapid change, due to the increasing public demand for more alcohol-free beverages for adults. A recent study by Ab In-Bev UK revealed that 31% of us have now tried alcohol-free beer, and 19% of us are unable to distinguish it from alcoholic beer in taste. The study also claims that one in ten women drink alcohol-free beer on a weekly basis, with Londoners being more likely to consume alcohol-free beer than any other UK city. This research arguably reflects the rise of a new breed of ‘discerning drinkers’, who are consciously reducing their alcohol consumption in order to maintain a healthier lifestyle.

The response of the UK drinks market to changing public demand has been rapid. Last week, the world’s largest distiller, Diageo, made its first investment into a non-alcoholic drinks company.

The beer business veteran acquired a minority share into Seedlip, a British company specialising in the production of non-alcoholic gin made by our friend Ben. According to Diageo’s Director of Global Innovation, the company recognises the “opportunity of non-alcoholic drinks” that is provided by targeting consumers that are reducing their alcohol intake, whether this is due to their ambitions for a healthier lifestyle or one-off duties as a designated driver.

Diageo will follow in the footsteps of other multinational drinks companies such as Britvic, who, last month, launched incubator company WiseHead Productions, tasked with creating beverages for adults looking for a quality drinking experience. The company has been set up in the “spirit of progression”, allowing more non-drinkers to enjoy social occasions with “exceptional drinks that are creatively crafted”. Specifically, the new incentive is angled to target discerning adults looking for non-alcoholic beverages that are less tooth-achingly sweet than their soda counterparts, and without the high calorie kick.

Elsewhere, the increasing publicity of alcohol-free options has been met with developing success. In 2012, The Telegraph reported soaring sales of non-alcoholic wine because it is a cheaper, healthier alternative. In 2009, craft beer producer BrewDog was met with widespread controversy when it launched Tactical Nuclear Penguin, which at 32%ABV was the world’s strongest beer at that time. Its response was Nanny State, a full-flavoured hoppy ale that still packs a punch, only at a much more moderate 0.5%ABV. Despite originally being a publicity stunt, the critical acclaim the beer itself has received is unprecedented. When put alongside other alcohol-free be in a taste test, The Guardian declares that with Nanny State, BrewDog “knock this non-alcoholic beer thing out of the park”. Our members have given similarly glowing reports, particularly Club Soda’s own self-confessed ‘Nanny State Warrior’, Jo. The popularity of this full-flavoured beer has demonstrated that low or no alcohol beer is fast becoming a serious contender in the UK drinks industry.

It appears, then, that all roads are fast leading to an increasing public demand for alcohol-free options.

At Club Soda, our members enjoy finding their favourites by joining our beer tastings or writing their own reviews. This is a great way of finding something new to drink in the pub, as well as going for a healthier option. A great source for trying something new is Dry Drinker, who offer mixed cases of low or no alcohol beer so you can try a great selection of beers at minimum effort. This makes it really easy for you to join the quest to answer “what should I drink if I’m not drinking tonight?” – a question that is fast becoming a deal-breaker in the UK drinks industry.

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