How training is key in low & no market

By Gary Lloyd

- Last updated on GMT

Experts at low & no event on taking advantage of sector

Related tags low2no Beer Low to no LowNoProject The Low & No Project KAM Fuller's Cote

Getting your staff on board with low & no drinks is vital in claiming your share of a market worth hundreds of millions of pounds.

At last week’s launch of the 2024 Low and No: Drinking Differently​ report, KAM Insights account director Jo Lynch held a panel discussion with Fuller’s drinks marketing manager Ed Fryer and Cote Restaurants brand drinks manager Paddy Gardiner.

On the journey to introducing low & no options, Fryer said the business is further ahead of certain categories than others – chiefly in beer.

He said: “We saw research that showed one in three visits to the pub is alcohol-free and it was one in four not that long ago – that number made our business stand up and take notice.

“At that point we realised it was really important to start over-investing in this category. We dabbled a bit just before Covid when some of our pubs were seeing customers demanding alcohol-free while some were not.

“It’s about finding a few heroes along the way and people that are really going to lead the category from whether they’re operators or GMs.”

(l-r) Ed Fryer, Paddy Gardiner and Jo Lynch
(l-r) Ed Fryer, Paddy Gardiner and Jo Lynch

Cote’s Gardiner explained the business underwent a big review of its low & no range about nine months ago.

Research showed a year ago that customers choosing to drink tap water rather than a low & no option is leaving an estimated £800m on the table and that struck a chord.


He said: “Everyone went home slightly shell-shocked and were then thinking about that £800m so it was a pretty compelling proposition to take that back to our menu and see where the opportunities were.”

Cote launched its first handmade, non-alcoholic cocktails, listed its first non-alcoholic wine.

He explained: “It’s a French wine list so it’s really hard to source French, non-alcoholic wine. The bulk of it seems to come from Germany and Spain so there was a lot of blind tasting panels involved to land on one that we were really happy with.”

KAM Insights account director Jo Lynch said attention must be paid to drinks menus.

Fryer said research has showed people choose alcohol-free for a variety of reasons whether it be for health or finance, but “everyone’s coming in with a slightly different reason for picking alcohol-free”.

“We put the alcohol-free beers on the beer section of the menu or we might put it on an introductory section of the menu, the cocktails page, an alcohol-free specific page but at the moment we try to put it in lots of places and try and work out which one’s working best.”

Gardiner said Cote will merchandise a bottle of Pentire, for example, on the back bar shelving exactly as it would do with a bottle of full-strength gin or cognac.

Same serve style

He explained: “We ask operators to draw no differentiation between those products. They’re not putting it on a pedestal but they’re not put in a cupboard with the mothballs. They’re very much on display like anything else.

“And we don’t really have the opportunities that pub operators have - we don’t have beautiful tap fonts or even bars to put them on.”

On training, Fryer said low & no products have improved so staff have to serve it in exactly the same way that you could serve gin and tonic and because they’re not always the cheapest drinks, make sure it looking just as good.

Staff need to try the low & no drinks as much as possible. People need to try them and realise they are actually delicious, look great and it doesn’t make you stand out when you’re enjoying it.

Gardiner added: “We do a lot of sampling and it’s really important our team have a bit of background knowledge on production methods because there’s a real disconnect in the consumer mindset between where the value is in the drinks.

“We’re still in this kind of decade-ago-idea of it should be cheaper because they’re not paying for the alcohol without realising the difficulty and expense of removing alcohol from a beer or wine.

“The production of some of these drinks is kind of mind-blowing, mad science so trying to get our teams to be advocates for the category by having that knowledge that you know you can chuck an IPA together in your kitchen if you know what you’re doing but if you try to make Lucky Saint​, you’re going to be there for a long, long time.”

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