With social drinking on the rise and health remaining a big factor post-Covid, people are raising a toast to low calorie and moderate alcohol drinks. Terming it ‘sober-curious’, brands are responding to the demand with offerings that play with varied flavours and go slow on the alcohol. For those who want the flavour but sans the spirit, the zero-alcohol category is yet another booming market.
“The consumer is shifting from the traditional ‘for-the-kick’ consumption to savouring drinks, experimenting with flavours and discovering premium alternatives. The change is primarily led by the younger generation who are open to experimentation. This demand is being met by a plethora of new brands being introduced by manufacturers in the beverage space, be it beer, spirits or non-alcoholic beverages,” said Vineet Sharma, VP marketing — South Asia, AB InBev, which has energy drink Budweiser Beats and non-alcoholic beer Budweiser 0.0. It is a 50-calorie brew with zero sugar that offers the same taste of Budweiser with 0% alcohol.
Also read: Top summer 2023 destinations: From the Himalayas to Andaman and Nicobar; Here’s a list of must-visit places
“The new offerings take one away from the bitter tasting traditional alcohol, and have several options like mead, cider, seltzer, beer and whiskey. The new-age, first-time drinker is also looking for a smooth transition from non-alcoholic carbonated (fizzy) drinks to flavourful drinks,” said Pranoy Chakrabarty, chief operating officer, Bored Beverages, which sells No Label Original Mead, a honey wine made by fermenting honey at 7% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Post-Covid, this segment is the new rising star, said Sarath Nair, bar manager at Copitas, the bar at Four Seasons Hotel, Bengaluru. “Gin and tequila in the form of cocktails, ready-to-drink beverages to chill at home and NOLO (no sugar or low alcoholic cocktails) is trending.”
With India having one of the world’s largest millennial populations and a fast-growing Gen Z population entering the legal drinking age category, Krupa Shah, co-founder of Indian Standard Time aka IST
Among the 10 focus markets examined in the December 2022 release of the International Wine and Spirits Research (IWSR) No- and Low-Alcohol Strategic Study (Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, South Africa, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States), the market value of no/low-alcohol products in 2022 surpassed $11 billion, up from $8 billion in 2018.
Globally, a robust demand for flavoured alcoholic beverages and the adoption of low alcohol content beverages is predicted to fuel the RTD alcohol industry and outperform the wider beverage alcohol market, increasing their market share to 8% by 2025, as per the IWSR Drinks Market Analysis.
Unsurprisingly, there is innovation across categories among brewers, such as Anheuser-Busch, who launched their fruit flavoured non-alcoholic Hoegaarden in the US, and Molson Coor, whose introduction of Coors Edge has the lowest calorie and carbohydrate content in its category, Pernod Ricard’s launch of Ceder’s, William Grant & Sons’ launch of Atopia, etc. Diageo-owned Distill Ventures invested in US-based Ritual Zero Proof, which claims to be the first American company to produce a spirit alternative that smells and tastes like its alcoholic counterpart. Coca-Cola entered the RTD alcohol space with Fresca Mixed in 2022 in the US, a spirit-based alcoholic beverage, Lemon-Dou, an effervescent lemon canned cocktail in Japan in 2018 and Topo Chico Hard Seltzer in 2020 in the US.
In India, in the energy drink category, PepsiCo has Sting and plans to scale up Rockstar Energy for women consumers, infused with hemp seed oil, spearmint, lemon balm and about 80 milligrams of caffeine.
Coca-Cola has non-alcoholic malt drink Barbican. Carlsberg India launched the Tuborg White, a European styled wheat-malt brew, and Australian wine brand Jacob’s Creek has Unvined, a non-alcoholic wine with less than 0.5% alcohol.
In the whiskey segment, Johnnie Walker launched Johnnie Walker Blonde, a light, sweeter version of whisky from Cameronbridge blended with fruitier whiskies from Cardhu. Shweta Jain, chief business development officer, luxury, reserve & craft – India & South Asia, Diageo, said, “Consumers have evolved in how people order and drink whisky, and the versatility and vibrancy of Johnnie Walker Blonde helps when it comes to a good drinking experience.”
Also read: Who is K Krithivasan, the new TCS CEO designate? Know about his life, hobbies, education, and salary
Beer works best in hot climates, lighter than alcoholic drinks. Thus, urbanisation and change in societal perspective, along with the launch of new low- and no-alcohol variants, are propelling growth in the beer category.
Avneet Singh, founder of the mid-segment beer (not too strong, not too mild) Medusa Beverages that was started in 2017, shared that they had a turnover of Rs 70 crore in 2018 and expect Rs 150 crore in the upcoming years, clearly showcasing that there is a huge demand for craft beer across the country. “People have started preferring beer to hard liquor because there’s nothing like sipping a cold, fizzy beer on a hot day,” he added.