Forecast for January - DRY: Brands and the Rise of Non-Alcoholic Drinks

B2C - Brand Strategy
New Product Development

Dry January isn’t a weather forecast, but plenty of us will definitely be feeling under the weather after the holiday celebrations.


Dry January is in fact a public health campaign, begun mid-2013 by the charity Alcohol Change UK, to promote abstinence from alcohol during January.


Did it work? Well Alcohol Change say that in January 2014, over 17,000 Britons quit drink for the month, as a result of which the charity registered Dry January as a trademark.


With a quarter of British adults now wanting to reduce their alcohol intake, and a third of 16-24-year olds shunning alcohol altogether, it’s no surprise that low or no alcohol drinks are more popular than ever – a trend that’s growing around the world. 


Naturally the beer industry has responded, with big producers in the global beer market and craft brewers alike increasingly focusing on R&D to improve their non-alcoholic products. Heineken International B.V., Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV, Krombacher Brauerei, Moscow Brewing Company, and Carlsberg are all upping their production capacity.




AB InBev, the beer giant that makes Budweiser and other popular brands, is growing its non-alcoholic-drinks business and adding a new executive position at the company, a chief non-alcohol beverage officer, to oversee growth. 




Sainsbury’s have seen a 31% increase in sales of low & no alcohol, and found an ideal way of showcasing the growing number of brands. Last July the retailer launched ‘The Clean Vic’, a pop-up pub in central London exclusively serving no or low alcohol drinks. Reports are that it has a real pub atmosphere and serves a range of 20 low or alcohol-free drinks.




Even Coca Cola has come up with a line of alcohol-free sparkling drinks named Bar None. The range caters for wine, beer and cocktail lovers who want to drink ‘not as often or as much’, and are bored with the usual soft drinks. Bar None comes in four flavours: Sangria, Bellini Spritz, Dry Aged Cider and Ginger Mule, and Coke thinks demand will only grow.




In Australia, a national campaign from Carlton & United Breweries aims to get drinkers to quit sugary soft drinks and switch to non-alcoholic beer, which Carlton says contains ten times less sugar. Sales of non-alcoholic beers have grown 13-fold in the last six months, with Carlton Zero alone making $10m in sales since its launch in September, making it one of the most successful launches in the brand’s 180-year history.




In the US, as health conscious millennials and Gen Z drinkers seek out lower ABV drinks and mocktails, craft brewers are answering the call. Brooklyn Brewery has launched its first non-alcoholic craft beer with the name Special Effects. Said Robin Ottaway, the brewery’s president, “There’s a fundamental shift in consumer drinking habits. I feel like, over time, we are going to continue to see this trend grow.”




And would you believe an alcohol-free beer that helps get rid of your beer belly? It took scientists at Japanese beer maker Kirin ten years of R&D to mass-produce Kirin Karada Free, with none of the alcohol that would otherwise supply most of the calorie content. The brew contains a “bitter acid” derived from fermented beer hop extract, which has the remarkable effect of reducing abdominal fat.




Most provocative of the non-alcoholic offerings has to be from Brewdog, the multinational brewery and bar chain from Scotland. Brewdog is promoting its non-alcoholic beer Punk AF (‘all the attitude, all the flavour but none of the alcohol’) on billboards that read ‘Sober as a Motherfu’ – (The rest of the message is cut off.) Obviously, a non-alcoholic beer to swear by.    




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