Jonny Forsyth
Jonny Forsyth is Associate Director, Mintel Food & Drink, monitoring and engaging with latest innovations and market developments in all alcohol and coffee categories.

Five years ago “Binge Britain” still dominated headlines…

It’s amazing how much the alcoholic drinks landscape has changed over the last five years. Back in 2014, it could be summed up by this Daily Telegraph, which warned that Britain’s binge drinking levels are among the highest in the world.

In the same year, in what was regarded at the time as a niche and even bizarre event, Dry January was first launched. This caused consternation among many hardened UK drinkers. Beer influencer Pete Brown was an early and minority defender of what many saw as an affront to UK’s hard drinking culture. Brown argued: “If you’re angry or annoyed with someone who is taking time off drinking, maybe you need to ask yourself why.”

…but in 2014, Mintel identified the big moderate drinking opportunity

Yet, it was clear to Mintel back in 2014 that Dry January was an early symptom of a far bigger trend. We were excited to tell clients about the emergence of the new wave of higher quality non-alcoholic beer in Germany, which would have ramifications for the wider world. In a 2014 Mintel blog, I wrote:

“Non-alcoholic beer has huge long-term sales potential, both in Muslim-dominated regions and health-conscious but beer-loving Western markets. This is an area of innovation which all major brewers should be focusing on – as consumers want reassurance of product quality, something trusted brands can provide.”

This analysis was picked up by major global media outlets such as Food Navigator and even the Telegraph itself.

It was clear to me that health consciousness was having a radical impact on wider food and drink categories like ice cream and coffee. Why wouldn’t alcohol follow next? Especially as the rise of smartphones meant younger drinkers were seeking to stay more in control to avoid eternal digital records of their youthful indiscretions.

Mintel helps to shift the debate – and drive alcohol profits

Non-alcoholic alcohol is now big news. Especially in beer, where major brands such as Budweiser, Heineken and Peroni have launched 0% versions in the past two years. It is hard to read an alcoholic drinks story in the press these days without some reference to the “new sober younger generation”.

And it is not just beer. Non-alcoholic wine is on the rise. Seedlip has shown the way for so-called non-alcoholic spirits too. Its inventor Ben Branson recently told Forbes: “I wanted a healthier way of life, the hangovers, the drinking, that was just not me”.

Non-alcoholic beer is not a fad and the big players have invested seriously in the opportunity. AB InBev, the world’s largest brewer, announced in 2016 that no/low alcohol beer would ideally account for 20% of its sales by 2025.

My advice to clients since 2016 has been that the smart money is on the non-alcoholic spirits category as gourmet ‘mocktails’ go big. And I expect to see this become more of a mainstream story in 2019…