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SB Voices: Rise of low-abv spirits

As the low- and no-alcohol craze continues its unstoppable rise, Nicola Carruthers looks at the recent products tapping into the trend.

The Ketel One Botanical range consists of three low-abv variants

Signs of health and wellbeing have dominated the industry with increasing frequency. From all-natural ingredients to low-abv and zero-proof serves, consumers are clearly gravitating toward ‘healthier’ drinking experiences.

Alcohol consumption declined for the second consecutive year in the US, according to a recent report by the IWSR. The drop was attributed to the “slow-building trend of moderation or not drinking at all”.

In the UK, the first ever alcohol­-free drinks festival took place last year, called The Mindful Drinking Festival. The event featured craft beers, wines, lower-­sugar sodas, infusions and non­-alcoholic ‘spirits’ all served-­up by expert mixologists.

And when it comes to spirits, there are a whole host of lower-alcohol options for consumers.

Gruppo Campari’s Aperol has led the way for low-abv drinking, particularly with the popularity of its Aperol Spritz. The brand attributed its growth to the trend, rising 17.6% to four million nine-litre cases, according to recent Brand Champions data.

Earlier this year, also saw the launch of a zero-abv spirit that “mimics the aromatic profile and complexity” of gin. Surendran & Bownes Edition Zero: Labdanum, the organic and vegan-friendly alternative to alcoholic drinks, was created in collaboration with Surendran & Bownes distillery as part of the company’s Distillers Development Programme.

And even Diageo and Pernod Ricard are showing an interest in the trend and innovating in the category. Diageo took a minority stake in Seedlip in 2016 and also recently unveiled its Ketel One Botanical range.

The ‘first-of-its-kind’ Botanical range is bottled at 30% abv with no artificial flavours, no added sugar and no artificial sweeteners, containing just 73 calories.

Pernod Ricard’s Absolut vodka also introduced two flavoured vodkas into the UK market. Made from fruit juice, the expression have been created to appeal to the “increasingly health conscious who favour brands with natural ingredients.”

The range has been designed to pair with soda and other sparkling mixers.

And it seems there’s more to come from zero-alcohol spirit Seedlip. Head of new brands Clare Smith-Warner told The Spirits Business earlier this year that they are working on three new “standalone” brands for 2018 as well as a new Seedlip for the permanent range.

As for the trends that appear to be emerging around non-alcoholic drinks, a number of bars are already catering to the growing need and dedicating ample menu space with flavourful and well-balanced no-alcohol drinks.

What is clear is that for spirits producers to keep up with changing consumer demands and expectations, a non-alcoholic offering should be made available. The industry needs to adapt in order to survive.

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