We are behind the curve and missing out when it comes to low and no

By Ed Bedington

- Last updated on GMT

Pubs and bars need to embrace the low and no trends

Related tags Low to no Beer Wine Spirits Pubs Bars Drink

Our trade has often prided itself as being ahead of the curve when it comes to drinks trends and innovation - it’s often said brands and new drinks are created and built in the on-trade.

Yet there’s a massive blindspot when it comes to the low and no category, and one I fear we’re showing no signs of recognising, while the off-trade happily tucks into our lunch.

With January now over, many in the trade will be putting the dry debate to one side and hoping to avoid any low and no discussions for another year. Sadly, I fear too many.

“There’s no demand for it,” is often the cry I hear from pub operators across the UK, as the supermarkets rub their hands with glee and devote yet another few feet of premium shelving space to the category.

I find it baffling that a category which is seeing such interest in the off-trade market can be so completely ignored by the on-trade.

Eye opener

I spent the afternoon the other day at Club Soda’s pop-up alcohol free off-licence to record a podcast, and I have to say it was a bit of an eye-opener, for me and the two operators we record the Lock In podcast with.

The sheer breadth of range of high-quality products that now exist in the low and no category is incredible, and the offer hugely diverse.

The pop-up itself was only supposed to be a temporary thing for a month, but they’ve already decided to keep it open for February, and potentially longer, due to the phenomenal demand they’ve had.

That’s a shop that is entirely devoted to alcohol free, low and no drinks… Let me repeat that - entirely devoted to alcohol free, low and no drinks.

Yet there’s no demand…

Time to change our thinking

You can hear the surprising response from James and Heath by listening to the podcast here ​- these are two operators that recognise there’s a market, but admit they haven’t really embraced it and realise they’re missing a trick.

I’d recommend anyone that can make the trip to London to visit the Club Soda shop on Great Portland Street to do so - Laura and her team are doing a great job with tastings and masterclass sessions to help operators realise the potential of some of these adult, non-alcoholic drinks.

Why wouldn’t you want to be offering a better low and no range, selling more of it, and making more margin? Surely it’s a no brainer.

We are so behind the curve on this it’s almost embarrassing - let’s put aside our prejudices and take a fresh look at a sector before we completely miss the boat.

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