You heard it here first
Our current thoughts and insight
Veganism and plant-based diets have been all the rage over the last year and it seems to me that the low and no alcohol movement is similar to veganism – small markets in comparison to their traditional equivalents but the people that are a part of the movement feel very strongly about it. While the low/no alcohol sector might not yet be mainstream, it’s currently a very ‘community orientated’ culture - Sober Girl Society has 89.5k followers on Instagram and Club Soda has 15k followers - and these groups are active in sharing teetotal recommendations on great drinks, brands and bars.
Consumers are likely to have a new view towards health following Covid-19 (consuming fewer calories, taking better care of our internal systems) and ‘healthier’ alcoholic drinks such as hard seltzers are already starting to make their way onto the market, driven by consumer desire for low sugar, low calorie easy drinking. If consumers are becoming more mindful of their drinking habits, companies, and the alcohol category as a whole, should be ready to adapt.
The low and no alcohol category is in its infancy and there are definitely some winners and losers at this embryonic stage. For me, beer has made great strides in recent years, with many products indistinguishable from their higher ABV counterparts but trying to find a low/no alcohol wine that isn’t incredibly sweet is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. There’s still plenty of room for innovation in this category that appeals to all palates.
Additionally, when it comes to no alcohol spirits, the prices can be eye watering, making it difficult for customers that just want to give the category a go. Low and no ready-to-drink cocktails or G&Ts, which naturally have a lower price point, could be a great way to bring new consumers into the category.
Although there have been claims from alcohol brands have made big claims surrounding low and no alcohol’s presence in its portfolio, there has been little traction made from any of the big players. Rather than this being a case of there being little thirst for it, could it possibly be due to the community-based nature of the category’s consumers who are rejecting the big multinationals? This is a space that smaller brands can really get their teeth into and build a loyal following with vocal brand ambassadors.
Sharing recipes in ‘chainmails’ (I’ve had a few myself), looking online for inspiration on what to cook next, enjoying Zoom dinner dates/parties, can’t eat out so eating in. These activities must surely drive Consumers to look for new exciting ingredients, interesting suppliers, complete restaurant quality meal solutions to overcome boredom?
Yet we hear that retailers don’t want to talk about new products and manufacturers are putting NPD on hold and furloughing product development teams, I get that it makes short-term financial sense but wonder if this short-term outlook will prevent retailers winning back a share of that ‘eating out’ spend they have been chasing, and could now be winning back?
Surely now is the right time for you to think more longer term and write that NPD brief for that fantastic restaurant quality product you know your team can produce, or the brief that is all about making it easier for consumers to serve up something wonderful, because you gave them a wow inducing ingredient or the centre of plate highlight.
Bakery must be the category of the moment, parents cooking with kids, everyone wanting to make bread and homemade treats, yet it seems to be the one aisle that is nowhere close to having normal availability, I can’t remember the amount of trips I’ve taken to stores and every time come away deflated without flour or yeast. It takes 60 days to change or create a new habit, will bakery miss the boat if it takes 60 days to sort out supply?
Solutions and innovation are often sparked by things happening in adjacent sectors, perhaps mills need to look to other categories for inspiration around packaging solutions, or maybe you aren’t a miller but have a packing line that is idle due to fall off in sales in some channels, and you could look to co-pack for a local mill, and help make a lot of amateur bakers a lot happier.
We all know how amazingly hard food manufacturers have worked with the retailers to overcome the challenge of getting products back into stores and feeding the nation, but I think for many the longer term challenge will be how to remain relevant in a Post Covid world, particularly when consumers may be worrying about money in their pockets.
Community forum chats are full of predictions that we will stop being nice to each other when the lockdown ends, and this is said with a real sadness. My view is that the companies who support and encourage people to continue to think about their communities and get involved are the ones that will thrive.
Are there ways that your brand can keep the community spirit going, perhaps through links with community networks that you actively promote/contribute to? But don't think you can get away with just playing at it - we all know just how effective the internet is at seeing through 'fake' anything really quickly.