No-and-Low: 5 tips to succeed in a new category

When it comes to choosing what to drink, consumers are now faced with a vast selection of beverages with varying claims, flavour profiles and alcohol levels. A category that was defined by 0% alcohol beer has now grown exponentially, with big players in the spirits categories and more entrepreneurial brands now making headway.

While it may feel like this space is saturated with a whole host of new products, the journey for the no-and-low category has only just begun. Rather than being perceived as a substitution, products within this space are curating exciting experiences that spark curiosity for a new generation of consumers.

We met with a number of specialists in this field to discuss their perceptions and predictions, highlighting brands that are leading the way and challenges that new-to-market brands will face.

“A new generation of consumers are accelerating a departure from what we once knew and understood. Millennials are opting for complex profiles, driven by the craft movement and tend not to drink when they go out.”

– Eric Sampers, Ex- Global Brand Director at Pernod Ricard & Co-founder of Illogical Drinks Co.

1. Understand your consumer

This new generation of consumers seek offerings beyond the purely functional (0%). The no-and-low category is able to leverage the wellness trend, driven by a desire for a ‘better me’ lifestyle. While the relationship between calorie and alcohol content is not yet fully grasped by consumers, the desire to live a moderate life balancing pleasure and control throws up interesting tensions for brands owners. Examples of brands playing here are Small Beer and Lucky Saint, with alcohol content between 0.5-2.5%, plugging a gap for those who seek such a balance.

“Excess is frowned upon. 10-years-ago alcohol-free claims weren’t synonymous with health and wellness but products in market now are much more than their functional attributes.”

– Alex O’Rourke, Ex-Global Innovation Director at Fever Tree

2. Own the occasion­

Although there has been an emergence of non-alcoholic drinks brands in the last 18 months, very few are associated with a specific occasion, with wine still owning mealtime occasions. There is a real opportunity for no-and-low brands to use flavour combinations and cuisine to create an experience that engages consumers. Everleaf is an example of a great tasting product with a complex profile capable of leveraging this space. With food and drink at the centre of the social agenda, it will be interesting to see how food pairings evolve.

“Alcohol consumption is being ‘used’ in a different way compared with the past. The moments that we choose to drink are more relaxed…social occasions are elevated with a focus on the delicious product, striking serve and immersive atmosphere.”

– Alex O’Rourke, Ex-Global Innovation Director at Fever Tree

3. Disrupt and engage

While consumers have largely defaulted to mainstream soft-drinks, there is an opportunity for no-and-low beverages to cut through the noise. Disruptive brands, such as Ugly Drinks, have a distinctive tone of voice and attitude which they applied across their touch-points in a consistent and engaging way. By speaking to their consumers directly via their online shopping portal, Ugly have generated excitement through the launch of merchandise resulting in a loyal customer base.

“The next surge of emergent products will likely focus on just one facet… and do it well. Whether that’s product quality, experience, branding or serve. But in order to ensure their longevity, brands will need to look wider and succeed in multiple facets”

– Eric Sampers, Ex- Global Brand Director at Pernod Ricard & Co-founder of Illogical Drinks Co.

4. Create a whole brand experience

Seedlip has successfully been listed in a variety of outlets, from supermarkets to health-food and homeware stores. Its success also spans to on-trade where it is often the only alternative to your regular spirit. With an expanding portfolio, consumers are remaining loyal to a brand that is educating them, not only about its proposition and ingredients, but its creation and roots. Executions, be it a serve or on-trade activations, always have impact with consistency at its core.

“New brands must have a holistic offering to cut through the noise. It’s not about tempting people in, but rather it’s about engaging consumers with a great proposition, delicious liquid and an attractive serve that allows them to express themselves.”

– Alex O’Rourke – Ex-Global Innovation Director at Fever Tree

5. Dare to be different

Tried and tested category rules are ripe for disruption in this market.  Notably, there is a scarcity of brands in the low Spirits category. Where established brand owners have scratched their heads for years trying to make the whisky or rum categories more accessible to younger consumers, the no-low category throws up a myriad of opportunities. Three Spirit, for example, have demonstrated that defying expectations with exciting and different ingredients piques the curiosity of a younger generation rather than focusing in on demystifying existing rules.

“Competition is fierce, but products that challenge conventions can be easily understood and will generate interest and loyalty. With access to different channels, namely digital and entertainment, consumers are always engaging and on-the-hunt to discover something new.”

– Eric Sampers, Ex- Global Brand Director at Pernod Ricard & Co-founder of Illogical Drinks Co.

To understand the key motivations impacting consumers within your category and how to bring your brand to life please get in touch for an interactive presentation looking into the development of no-low category and the opportunities that lie beyond it.