Low/no alcohol: Low2NoBev showcases vibrant drinks sector!
It’s great to be back in person at a live event! The past 18 months have seen few face-to-face trade events. However, this hasn’t stopped the drinks category from innovating, particularly within the low/no category.
Low and no category surges
Consumer demand for low and no alcohol drinks continues to rise. Kantar reports that, for the 52 weeks to 21st February 2021, retail sales have increased by over 50% to £217m.
Stocking a good selection of low and no alcohol drinks has assumed ever-increasing importance now for both on and off-trade. This is further highlighted by a recent YouGov/Portman Group online survey of 2,100 UK adults. The research showed that around two-thirds of UK adults had tried a low and no product (under 1.2% ABV). Additionally, a quarter of current alcohol drinkers are ‘semi-regular consumers’ (often or sometimes choosing low/no drinks).
Low2NoBev Trade Fair
Greater acceptance of the advantages of responsible drinking and its effects on health and wellbeing are driving this trend. So with more venues reopening, it’s a great time to support this burgeoning drinks sector.
Low/no craft beer
The low/no craft beer industry is still relatively young. Some companies are already well-established like the superb Big Drop Brewing Co.. Check out their brilliant new Tailwind IPA! There’s also Nirvana Brewery, which only launched in 2017 but has quickly built up a loyal group of followers.
Lucky Saint alcohol-free lager is another well-known name. Last year before COVID struck, the beer was the first independent alcohol-free lager to be served on draught. You can read more about this here on Ryebeck’s Industry Insight pages. With lockdown lifting, the signs are very positive that the company will continue to grow.
Many craft beer companies place ethical and environmental considerations at the heart of their operations. So, it was great to catch up again with the guys from B Corp-certified Freestar. Their innovative, eco-friendly beer is made, not by brewing, but by blending all-natural ingredients. These include hops, malted barley and water, without adding any yeast. Is it a beer? Well, the judges at the prestigious World Beer Awards thought so. It’s a 2019 Premium Alcohol Free Beer category winner! So there’s the answer!
Unltd. is another new brand that stood out at the trade show. Launching in June 2020, the timing during lockdown was a challenge. However, it hasn’t stopped the beer winning two European Beer Challenge Golds, as well as Gold Medals for the bottle design at the World Beer Awards! There are two beers – a lager and an IPA – both low calories, gluten-free, vegan-friendly and only 0.5% ABV.
Founder Johnny Johnson chose the ingredients for their nutritional values. “We wanted our beer to have enough vitamins B6 & B12 to be able to state it on our labels, to further promote the healthy benefits to our AF beer.”
The name came from the feeling Johnny had when he took a break from alcohol. “I felt truly unlimited“, he says. “I was more productive and exercising more. The potential I felt was limitless, so that’s where UNLTD. came from.”
Edinburgh’s Days Brewing launched their 0% ABV craft lager and pale ale in September last year. The company is committed to using the finest local ingredients in their beers. These include water from southern Scotland’s Lammermuir Hills and premium malt from locally-grown barley. The beers have quickly won many fans, including Tom Kitchin, who now stocks them in his Michelin-starred restaurant, The Kitchin.
The company supports charitable initiatives, including Run for Heroes and they donate 2% of sales towards mental health causes.
Award-winning Hepworth Brewery began production in 2001. Several of their beers are gluten-free and their latest brew is a unique 0.5% ABV organic lager. Aztec is made initially with a blend of Czech and German hops and malts. The result is then blended with the syrup and dietary fibre (inulin) of the agave cactus. This produces a distinctively refreshing beer with body and flavour.
Alternative lower alcohol beer choices
While there many products at 0.5% ABV or lower, one feature of the show was the emergence of craft brands trying to find their own, alternative lower alcohol space.
Small Beer, which you can read about here on Ryebeck’s Industry Insight pages, is already an established brand. Uniquely producing ‘small beer’ of up to 2.8% ABV, they have now produced a 2.3% organic IPA. It’s deliciously fresh and fruity with a subtle biscuity edge, reminiscent of the traditional British IPA style but with much lower alcohol.
Gen!us Brewing launched their ‘light beer’ in 2018. Founders Jason Clarke and Charlie Craig see this version of #SmartDrinking as an important new category in the UK. At 3% ABV, Gen!us is a craft lager, similar to the light, refreshing craft beers prevalent in the USA. It’s low in calories, but not low in flavour. You can find their cans at selected retailers listed on their website. Could ‘light beer’ like this be a new category in the UK? Something to look out for certainly.
Other low, no and lower alcohol drinks
In addition to beer, other categories such as non-alcoholic wine and spirits were also represented at the show. Highlights of these include Bottega 0 Rosé, a non-alcoholic sparkling rosé wine and Vallformosa 0.0, a sparkling zero alcohol Cava.
Caleño is an award-winning brand of distilled non-alcoholic tropical spirits, imbued with Latin American soul! Founder Ellie Webb has Colombian roots and so wanted to create a fun alcohol-free drink with the sun-drenched flavours of her family’s country.
Light & Zesty is a light and zesty blend of tropical, citrus and spice botanicals, including golden Inca berries. For a simple mocktail, pour 50ml over ice, top with tonic and garnish with a tropical Inca berry. Dark & Spicy is a rich, warming infusion packed with dark pineapple tropical notes, ginger & kola nut spices. Ellie recommends serving this with tonic and a squeeze of fresh lime. Other non-alcoholic cocktail recommendations are listed on their website.
Heading closer to home for inspiration, Feragaia is a distilled alcohol-free spirit from Scotland. Fourteen natural land and sea botanicals are distilled in a pot still, before being cut with Scottish water. The result is a fabulous and unique expression of the ‘Spirit of Wild Earth’ with real depth of flavour. Check out their website for some fantastic cocktail recipes.
Award-winning MARY is a botanical blend made with responsibly sourced garden herbs. At only 6% ABV and a mere 9 calories per single pour of 25ml, this is another innovative drink that offers consumers a real alternative to a full-alcohol spirit. It’s fresh, dry, refined and versatile in a number of cocktails. For example, a MARY & Tonic has only 2% ABV and is packed full of fresh herbal flavours. MARY hits the sweet spot between the sophisticated taste that only alcohol can deliver and consumers’ desire to moderate their alcohol consumption.
Alcohol-free functional drinks
Low/no alcohol is not just about taking ingredients and processes out. It can also be about adding other elements in. Whether that’s CBD, vitamins, minerals or anything else, this is one new development that’s sure to grow.
Fungtn, made by the Fungtional Brew Company, is the first alcohol-free beer range brewed with adaptogenic functional mushrooms. These mushrooms contain certain compounds that are said to help the body maintain natural homeostasis. What does this mean? It’s the body’s ability to perform at its best, including the ability to cope with stress. The use of adaptogens is based on ancient healing traditions and the Fungtn beers are all made with different mushrooms. These are rich in polysaccharides and so add mouthfeel to the beer, rather than giving a mushroom flavour! For example, Lion’s Mane IPA delivers stone fruit notes and a delicate bitterness.
Sentia is an ‘active botanical spirit’ designed to mimic the kick of alcohol, but without the negative effects. Created with the scientific input of leading neuropsychopharmacologist, Professor David Nutt of GABA Labs, this is another world first. Professor Nutt and his team have developed ‘Alcarelle’, a proprietary mix of plant-derived functional compounds and nutrients. These work on the body’s GABA system which regulates normal social interactions in a similar way to alcohol. Both produce relaxing, sedative effects and Sentia is alcohol-free. While there is more work to be done in this area, the results are very promising and the drink is delicious too!
Author: Robin Goldsmith of The Write Taste.