The Portman Group’s latest survey, conducted by YouGov in 2023, marks a pivotal shift towards low and no alcohol consumption across the UK. As the market for these alternatives expands, understanding consumer motivations, behaviours, and preferences becomes crucial for stakeholders across the spectrum.

Key Findings

  • Widespread adoption: 64% of UK adults have now tried low or no alcohol products, up from 59% in our 2020 survey, indicating a broadening consumer base. This includes 75% of alcohol drinkers, compared to only 33% of non-drinkers.

  • Increased consumption: There’s a notable increase in semi-regular consumption, up to 35% of UK drinkers from 25% in 2020, highlighting growing consumer acceptance and regular inclusion in lifestyle choices.

Aiding moderation: 23% of current alcohol drinkers in the UK report reducing their alcohol consumption due to low and no alcohol alternatives.

Important tools for harm reduction

For the sixth year in a row, the most cited reasons for why customers choose low and no alcohol are being able to drive home and not drinking excessively at social events – highlighting how these products are important tools to tackle harms such as drink driving and binge drinking. Collectively minimising health concerns or current medical reasons was also cited by a large proportion of respondents, highlighting a move towards a more health-conscious society. The desire for social inclusion without the effects of alcohol, coupled with an increasing focus on responsible drinking and moderation are also fuelling the drive towards products which facilitate low-alcohol or alcohol-free drinking.

Generation Sober-Curious

Young adults lead the charge in embracing low and no alcohol options, an inclination that suggests a generational shift in attitudes towards alcohol – a phenomenon that has been dubbed as ‘Generation sober-curious’. Almost half of respondents ages 18-24 said they drank semi-regularly (44%), up 91% from 2020 (23%). However, our results also show a significant increase in regular or occasional use across all age groups since 2020.

Brand-share as the key entry point

As the market matures, the diversity and availability of low and no alcohol alternative products are expected to grow, further embedding these choices into mainstream consumption habits. Most notably, brand-shared low and no alcohol versions of popular alcoholic beverages serve as a significant entry point, underscoring the importance of brand familiarity in consumer choices, and signifying how the evolution of consumer preferences is being both reflected by the industry.

When and where the public drink alcohol alternatives

Pubs and bars remain the most popular locale for low and no drinking habits, with over a third of respondents choosing to opt for alcohol alternatives when visiting these establishments.

Alcohol alternatives also appear to be popular within social contexts, with 31% of alcohol alternative drinkers saying they drink them at home socially with friends or family, followed by 23% drinking them out at a friend or family member’s house.

Low and no drinkers are also most likely to favour these products when alternating with alcoholic drinks. The second most cited response was on ‘drink free’ days during the week – highlighting that these products are not just for periods of abstinence such as Dry January but all year round.

Facilitating a move to mindful consumption?

The findings here suggest that low and no alcohol alternatives are facilitating a distinct movement towards mindful consumption within the UK’s drinking culture.

Our survey illustrates that increasingly health-conscious consumers are saying that these products have helped them cut back their alcohol consumption as well as avoid harms such as binge drinking and drink driving when out – feeding into the Government and industry’s shared goal to promote a moderate and responsible relationship with alcohol across the UK.

Our research also suggests that low and no drinkers continue to favour drinking these products socially and in hospitality settings such as pubs and bars emphasising the importance of increasing the availability of low and no options wherever an alcoholic product appears on sale.

We welcome producers, retailers, pubs and the wider hospitality industry continuing to work together to increase choice, availability and visibility of alternatives, as well as initiatives such as instore tastings to help consumers overcome outdated taste prejudices.