LOW AND NO VIRTUAL CONFERENCE 2021
On Tuesday, Portman Group CEO, Matt Lambert, gave a presentation at this year’s annual Low and No Conference. The conference is being held virtually this year and drew participants from across the sector to discuss the future of the low and no alcohol. The conference is of particular relevance after the incredible growth in sales of low and no products that took place in 2020; Nielsen data shows sales of low and no products grew 30%.
Matt gave an overview of the current regulatory landscape for low and no products. The Portman Group is currently celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Code of Practice delivering self-regulation inexpensively, responsively and effectively. In terms of low and no the Code only applies to products with an ABV of more than 0.5%. However, it does have reference to those products of this strength or lower which shares branding with an alcoholic beverage. In these cases, packaging must not have particular appeal to under-18s. Looking ahead we will be consulting on best practice guidance which will be published for products with an ABV of 0.5% and lower later this year. This should create greater clarity for producers who want to market their products within a responsible marketing framework.
Matt reminded producers that the Advertising Standards Authority’s CAP Code will apply to low and no advertising in general, but not the alcohol section. CAP is currently consulting on whether low alcohol products (1.2% ABV and below) can be marketed comparatively alongside higher strength alcohol products. Matt covered these details during his talk and encouraged everyone to respond to the consultation.
In terms of other work within low and no, Matt underscored the Group’s activity where in the last few months alone, we co-chaired a ministerial round table we convened on the topic with a keynote address from the Public Health Minister Jo Churchill. We also conducted our annual consumer survey on low and no drinks showing ever increasing consumer interest with two-thirds (62.5%) of UK adults having tried a low and no product.
While there have certainly been great strides in the popularity of low and no, there are barriers to be tackled that continue to surround the category. There are outdated myths about low and no products especially around the taste and social perception.
Additionally, research shows consumers are confused by the terminology surrounding such products. 75% were not familiar with the term ‘de-alcoholised’ supporting previous research by Portman Group (May 2018). It is time for greater clarity to be given to consumers on product descriptors and, in line with our previous consultation response, we believe that ‘alcohol-free’ should be used for products up to and including 0.5% ABV and for low alcohol to apply to drinks above 0.5% to 1.2%. We anticipate making this case when the planned government consultation opens later in the year.
Speakers at the event included representatives from Big Drop Brewing, Budweiser, Lucky Saint and Stryyk. Key topics up for discussion ranged from brand launches to understanding low and no consumers.
Particular insights came from Laura Willoughby at ClubSoda, who highlighted the key findings from their latest research into consumer profiles of low and no consumers – showing that from ‘craft beer enthusiasts’ to ‘trendy mums’ there are many different journeys to trying low and no products.
Philip Coverdale from consulting firm Global Data also highlighted how low and no demand has been buoyed by a younger demographic interested in health and wellness trends and promoting lifestyle occasions on social platforms such as Instagram.
Brendan Williams of the Free Consultancy also said that the increasing quality of low and no products combined with producer efforts to raise awareness of quality taste profiles amongst older generations will help bridge the existing age gap towards low and no uptake.
We were delighted to be asked to speak at the Low and No Conference and continue to underscore the value of the category in our work. The conference was a valuable industry experience with all speakers offering strong insight.