According to our latest report, Opportunities for Low- and No-Alcohol Wine 2021, there is a growing movement towards moderation, particularly among younger consumers, creating a need for healthier options, more control, and, most importantly, a product that still tastes good
What really are the opportunities for low- and no-alcohol wine? The evidence from the latest Wine Intelligence report Opportunities for Low- and No-Alcohol Wine 2021 suggests that there is an unmet consumer need.
People around the world, across multiple cultures, appear to be thinking along similar lines when it comes to lifestyle. These needs can be summarised in three words: health, control and taste. We want to drink stuff that is better for us, be it in fewer calories, more ‘natural’ ingredients and fewer headaches. We want to drink things that won’t cause us to lose control, whether it is because we value this control for its own sake, or we just want to avoid being shamed on social media. And, not surprisingly, we want drinks that taste pleasant and interesting, and – ultimately – genuine to what they are.
Marketers and brand owners will also be sitting forward in their seats at the sight of such a clear and tempting consumer target that will be in the market for many decades to come. Moderating alcohol consumption is a clear lifestyle goal of those in the Generation Z and Millennial cohorts, and clearly not of interest to those over 55, according to the data in this report.
As we relate these consumer needs to the wine category, we see why the spark of the low- and no-alcohol wine opportunity is struggling to become a blaze. As this report shows, low- and no-alcohol wine struggles to meet the benchmark of what wine should taste like. Individual winemakers have come close, but it seems clear from the data that the category as a whole suffers from a version of the tragedy of the commons: when a sufficient proportion of products in market fail the consumer taste test, it tarnishes the whole category.
Availability also appears to be a problem, with retailers perhaps reluctant to invest heavily in promoting a product that requires a very specific need and most likely a hand-selling effort. This latter factor has been conspicuous by its enforced absence over the past 12 months, as COVID-19 has restricted both the opening hours of specialist retail, and the inclination of shoppers to dwell, browse and engage with sales staff, denying them the opportunity to shift their tastes. This same phenomenon is also affecting niche products generally, as we pointed out in this article about other alternative wine types.
The final inertia factor for the low- and no-alcohol wine category appears to be the evident success that other alcoholic beverage categories are having in terms of convincing consumers that their low / no-alcohol product is more in tune with a moderating, healthier lifestyle. Chief among these are the successful low- and no-alcohol beer brands, such as Heineken 0.0, which has taken the bold step of aligning its core premium brand image with a no-alcohol product. So far, few wine businesses have been so brave.
Other categories are also rising to meet the need. One could argue that some of the recent success of the hard seltzer category in the US and Canada is down to the category’s positioning as ‘low calorie, low carb’. Our research so far suggests that hard seltzer drinkers see the product as a light, low alcohol alternative to other drinks (even though a typical 330ml / 12oz can at 5% ABV contains almost as much alcohol as a 150ml glass of wine). In the broader ready-to-drink (RTD) alcohol category, more and more brands are positioning themselves, successfully, to address consumer needs with prominent messages about low calories and low carbs.
Finally, even the strongest advocates for the low- and no-alcohol wine need to admit that, at best, the category will be an interesting niche rather than the main event in the wine category. Taking alcohol out of the equation will meet some needs, and those needs may grow over time, but for the foreseeable future most consumers will still choose ‘standard’ wine most of the time and opt for moderation that simply involves drinking smaller amounts, less often.