Our latest research report provides an in-depth look at the Portman Group’s fourth annual survey exploring UK consumer attitudes to low and no alcohol. It highlights a significant increase in the popularity of these products across adults of all ages.

The Portman Group once again partnered with the market research company YouGov, to commission an online poll of 2,079 adults from across the UK online between 9 and 10 December 2021. The results show that:

  • Use of low and no products is driven by current alcohol drinkers, with close to three-quarters (72%) at least trying these products, compared to only 38% of non-drinkers.
  • One in five (20%) of those who have tried low and no alcohol say they are more likely to drink these products now compared to a year ago, almost double the number saying this in last year’s survey (11%).
  • Over a quarter (26%) of those who have tried low and no alcohol say that their subsequent weekly alcohol consumption has decreased since they first tried it.
  • The most cited reasons for the appeal of low and no alcohol to consumers are that it enables them to drive home and not drink excessively at social events.

Becoming an everyday product or The pandemic catalyst?

With semi-regular drinkers increasing from nearly one in four to one in three in just a year we can say that this is increasingly an everyday product.  These results build on the positive results from previous years to show that low and no alcohol is fast becoming a regular feature in consumers shopping baskets. The results also suggest that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may have accelerated existing consumer trends toward these products as well as increasing moderation in the UK population.

This reflects previous survey data suggesting that a significant number of drinkers have cut their alcohol consumption since the start of the pandemic, with a Portman Group analysis of 33 publicly available polls taken since March 2020 suggesting that over a quarter (26%) of overall respondents reported they were drinking less [1]. To see the full analysis click here.

Our latest evidence also bolsters the results from the last four years suggesting that consumers of alcohol alternatives are buying these products as part of a responsible approach to drinking. The key reasons cited are the ability to drive home safely or using them to moderate and not drink to excess. This underscores how these products could play an important role in tackling wider alcohol-related harm, such as drink driving, and aiding people in staying within the Chief Medical Officer low-risk guidelines of 14 units per week.

Understandably there is increased attention on the low and no category in January as people participate in a monthly abstention from alcohol, with separate YouGov data suggesting that one in eight (12%) of UK drinkers would participate in Dry January [2]. Alcohol alternatives are predicted to play a key role, with the British Beer and Pub Association expect that 7.8 million pints of low and no beer will be sold this month [3].

However, low and no alcohol sales occur year-round. Survey data from consumer behaviour specialists Oxford Partnership Market Watch suggested that 63% of UK pub-goers opted for a

low or no alcohol alternative whilst watching a match during last year’s UEFA Football Championship [4], whilst Tesco predicted that around a quarter of UK adults would drink only low or no alcohol drinks this recent Christmas [5].

This increase in reported consumption in surveys is reflected in the sales data. Market analyst Kantar suggests that low and no alcohol sales doubled in 2020/21 to £217 million[6]. The significant expansion of the low and no alcohol category in the UK is also predicted to continue, with the international drinks analysts IWSR expecting an increase in sales to £558m by 2024 [7].

The upcoming UK Government consultation on low and no product descriptors represents an important opportunity to provide further clarity to both producers and consumers alike, aiding the Government’s stated ambition to significantly grow the sector by 2025 [8].

Portman Group and low and no in 2022

It was the alcohol sector who saw the opportunity to create products with lower or no alcohol but with all of the taste. We anticipate that small and large producers will continue to invest and innovate, bringing their creativity and imagination to craft this growing category. They will build on consumer demand for these products and increase their availability.

The Portman Group will maintain its work with the sector, from producers, retailers, publicans and consumer groups, as well as the Government to help build connections and encourage development of the low and no category.

Click here to read the report.

* Use of the term ‘semi-regular drinkers’ refers to those who either ‘often’ or ‘sometimes’ drink low and no alcohol products.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. The 2021 survey was conducted by YouGov on behalf of the Portman Group. Fieldwork was undertaken on 9th-10th December 2021 and involved a total sample size of 2,079 adults. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

In the 2020 survey, the total sample size was 2,100 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 14th – 15th December 2020.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

[1] Portman Group: Moderate majority continues throughout lockdowns and beyond, April 2021

[2] YouGov: One in eight drinkers plan to try and stay sober for the month, December 2021

[3] British Beer and Pub Association: 7.8 million pints of low and no alcohol beer will be sold this January, January 2022

[4] FMCG Magazine: Increase in sales of low and non-alcohol drinks in pubs during Euros, July 2021

[5] The Observer: Are you dreaming of a booze-free Christmas, December 2021

[6] The Grocer: Low and no alcohol category report 2021, April 2021

[7] The Observer: Are you dreaming of a booze-free Christmas, December 2021

[8] Department of Health and Social Care: Advancing our health – prevention in the 2020s, July 2019