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Is drinking becoming a non-event?

Is drinking becoming a non-event?

With a festival dedicated to low and no alcohol drinks taking place in Scotland this month, Emma Outten looks at how we are embracing such mindful drinking in this region

IT APPEARS THAT THE DEMAND for low and no alcohol drinks is not going to dry up anytime soon. There’s even a festival dedicated to the stuff, the Mindful Drink Festival, which is set to take place in Glasgow this month. It’s sponsored by Heineken 0.0, and organised by mindful drinking movement, Club Soda UK, which has gone to the trouble of providing a guide to the best pubs and bars for mindful drinkers all over the UK (home in on their map and the likes of The Fox at Lyng, The Lodge at Tuddenham and Dunston Hall Hotel pop up).

When it comes to alcohol free beer, this region has had its own part to play in leading the way. Two years ago St Peter’s Brewery, based near Bungay, launched the world’s first 0.0 per cent alcohol craft beer, Without® Original, which propelled the Suffolk-based brewery to huge growth. The three-product-strong Without® brand (which includes Original, Gold and Organic), now accounts for 30 per cent of the brewery’s overall sales and makes up 10 per cent of the low/no alcohol beer market.

Since Without® hit the market, rival breweries have launched into this sector in their droves, as the growing consumer demand for low and zero alcohol beer heats up. ‘The success of Without® has been beyond ourexpectations,’ says CEO Steve Magnall. ‘We knew when we were developing it that the British drinks market was in dire need of a decent, flavoursome and full-bodied zero alcohol beer, but we never expected take up or demand to be so high. We currently can’t make and bottle enough of it!’

With around 25 per cent of British adults not drinking alcohol for lifestyle, health or religious reasons, as well as increased Government pressure to reduce drink driving limits, there has never been a better time to produce alcohol-free beer.Is drinking becoming a non-event?

At the start of the summer, Adnams launched a new alcohol free version of its best-selling beer Ghost Ship Pale Ale (a year or so earlier the Suffolk-based brewer and distiller had already released a new lower alcohol version of its popular Sole Star beer, reducing the abv to 0.9 per cent). Although it’s relatively early days, Sarah Fisk of Adnams says the latest launch is already proving to be successful. But where is the demand coming from? ‘I don’t have any firm data on who is buying the product, but we know anecdotally that millennials are driving the growth in the low and no alcohol category. This is generally through a choice to have a healthier lifestyle, spend less and a general change in consumer habits.’

She adds: ‘The choice of a low alcohol product is being well received by those who wish to go out midweek and still enjoy the pub experience without the associated after effects of drinking alcohol. It is still a relatively small section of the market, but the fastest growing.

‘We currently have a unique product in the UK due to way in which Ghost Ship Alcohol Free is produced, which is why we believe we are seeing such a high demand for it. Ghost ship Alcohol Free is a full flavoured ale but without the alcohol, allowing consumers to enjoy the benefits of a 0.5 per cent beer but without having to compromise on taste.’

Her comments on our changing drinking habits are backed up by Mintel’s latest flagship British Lifestyles report. According to Mintel, around a quarter of UK adults (26 per cent) reduced their spending on alcoholic beverages bought to drink at home last year. Notably, this figure rises to 34 per cent of 25-34 year-olds, among the key consumers of alcoholic drinks. Health and saving money are the key reasons that consumers give for cutting back on alcohol.

It’s not just alcohol free beer that’s taking the drinks market by storm. Seedlip, the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirit, is served in some of the world’s best cocktail bars, Michelin starred restaurants and luxury hotels.

Closer to home, Seedlip’s herbal Garden 108 and aromatic Spice 94 are served at both Warwick St Social in Norwich and The Wildebeest in Stoke Holy Cross, where they’re proving to be very popular with customers. Chef Patron Daniel Smith comments: ‘We have noticed a growing trend amongst our diners to ‘banish the booze’ and have seen how an alcohol-free meal is no longer just for designated drivers, mums-to-be or non-drinkers.’ And he adds: ‘We’ve been busy trying out some delicious cocktails around these distilled spirits which offer a premium yet grown-up drink of choice with out those unwanted side effects ‘the morning after the night before’.’

The Hero in Burnham Overy Staithe also stocks Seedlip, as well as Ghost Ship Alcohol Free. Chef Proprietor Harry Farrow is a big supporter of these products and says: ‘It’s great to find a non-alcoholic product which satisfies the quench for a longer drink, and it’s great with Fever-Tree mixers. We are seeing more and more demand for non-alcoholic drinks which differ from the usual high sugar alternatives. This has been met by us stocking Adnams non-alcoholic Ghost Ship on draft at The Anchor, Morston. It’s an incredible product and great for drivers who still want a few pints with their friends. We have also been making our own cordials using great plums from Burnham Market.’

The way things are heading, we can expect to see more launches of these low and no alcohol drinks in the not so distant future. When asked if the Woodbastwickbased Woodforde’s Brewery had any plans to tap into the market, Head of Marketing Judi-Mae Alderton, replies: ‘It’s part of our product development programme, as it’s definitely something we are looking into.’

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