Shift in drinking habits presents ‘significant’ opportunity for manufacturers

By Georgina Townshend

- Last updated on GMT

Low-alcohol: dip in alcoholic drinking could prove a significant opportunity
Low-alcohol: dip in alcoholic drinking could prove a significant opportunity

Related tags Alcohol consumption Alcoholic beverage

Brits are “actively moderating” their drinking habits, with more than half of the nation’s beer, wine and cider drinkers claiming they drink less than a few years ago, according to research from Mintel.

But Richard Caines, senior food and drink analyst at the market intelligence agency, said it could present a “significant opportunity” for low-alcohol and alcohol-free beers, ciders and wines.

The research suggests one third (32%) of the British public reduced their alcohol intake throughout 2016, compared to what they would usually drink, with 51% of beer, wine, cider drinkers consuming less alcohol than in previous years.

The decline has been attributed to economic and health factors such as wanting to save money, avoiding weight gain, and improving personal health.

“Steps to moderate alcohol consumption are now widespread,” said Caines. “Reducing alcohol consumption to save money reflects the discretionary nature of drinks and how they can add significantly to outgoings.”

The consumers most likely to have cut back are aged between 25 and 34 (35%) and 35 and 44 (36%). Geographically the decline in alcohol consumption peaks at 41% in the north-east and dips to 27% in the south-east and East Anglia.

Key challenge

Caines said: “The fact that Brits are reducing the amount of alcohol they drink presents a significant opportunity for low-alcohol and alcohol-free beers,​ciders and wines.

“Today, lower-alcohol beer, cider or wine is drunk by around one quarter of alcohol drinkers, while overall, just 14% of Brits drink non-alcoholic or alcohol-free beer, cider or wine.”

Currently one fifth of adults claim they do not drink alcohol, with more women (22%) than men (17%) saying they are teetotal.

Overall, soft drinks are still more popular than low-alcohol and alcohol-free versions of alcoholic drinks, the Mintel research showed. More people (41%) would choose a soft drink if they are limiting their alcohol intake compared to 29% who would pick a low-alcohol or non-alcoholic beverage.

“Replicating the taste of standard-strength alcoholic drinks and changing perceptions remains a key challenge for low-alcohol and alcohol-free manufacturers,” said Caines.

“Alcohol-free versions of alcoholic drink brands also need to look at the reasons why consumers are limiting or reducing their alcohol intake in order to increase their appeal as an alternative to standard-strength alcoholic drinks.

“This includes offering bigger savings to those looking to save money, as well as prominently highlighting lower calorie content compared to standard-strength equivalents to those looking to better manage their weight and improve their health”.

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