As we come to the end of this year’s ‘Dry January,’ Dannie MacDonald, managing director at Gunner Cocktails, tells FoodBev Media why beverage brands should jump on the nolo (no- and low-alcohol) bandwagon in 2023.
Now in its tenth year, ‘Dry January’ has witnessed an exponential rise in popularity over the past decade. In January 2022, the movement saw its highest number of participants yet, with over 130,000 giving the challenge a (non-alcoholic) shot.
As we come to the end of this year’s dry spell, we can reflect on the various health benefits for its participants. Its impact has not done much to rectify the decline in alcoholic drinks sales. Indeed, within a couple of years of the movement’s launch, the total number of alcoholic drinks sold in the UK fell by 7%. Yet it’s clear that the alcohol-free movement is here to stay, and that businesses will need to embrace rather than fight this annual challenge.
With the popularity of alcohol alternatives on the rise, drinks brands that capitalise on the nolo movement will set themselves on a path of success for the year to come – and for future Dry Januarys. By focusing on flavour, taking advantage of events, and offering consumers something new and exciting, businesses can take the dry season by its horns and turn this annual challenge into a lucrative opportunity.
Flavour is key
Akin to the 1920s, when the Mary Pickford and Tom Collins were all the rage, the latest roaring 20s has witnessed a marked resurgence in the popularity of the cocktail. Indeed, in their survey on 2023 drinking trends, Bacardi revealed that 30% of people are drinking more cocktails than wine and beer, making it clear that “flavour” is once again the word on everybody’s lips.
This rising popularity of cocktails extends to both alcoholic, and, crucially, non-alcoholic. The growing trend has seeded a sharp increase in demand for nolo cocktails, particularly as the RTD movement becomes increasingly popular. Beverage companies that offer an extensive and varied collection of nolo cocktails set themselves up to reap the benefits of this popularity, with Dry January constituting a unique opportunity for showcasing a wide range of flavoursome drinks.
So much to do, so little wine
For many, the prospect of giving up alcohol for a month means foregoing four weeks of fun. Indeed, a 2021 survey found that 39% of those who failed to complete Dry January cited the allure of attending happy hours with friends as their undoing. With the assumption that a teetotal month brings with it a drier social life, events that don’t centre around alcohol stand to attract a large section of consumers keen to give up alcohol without forfeiting fun.
By partnering with stockists that offer regular non-alcohol-centric events, drinks brands forge their space right at the heart of a low-percent future. Events such as craft lessons and music evenings draw in consumers seeking to spend time socialising without the obligation of alcohol. Indeed, different drinks brands lend themselves to different types of events: while a nolo wine might fit in well to the passionate ambience of a poetry reading, an alcohol-free beer or a cocktail may be the ideal accompaniment to a sporting game.
The character of a drink extends beyond its percentage, and beverage brands that associate themselves with interesting events and activities become immediately more attractive to the growing number of people looking to consume more than just alcohol.
New year, new drink
As the demand for nolo grows, so too does the number of non-alcoholic drinks brands stocked in pubs, bars and on the shelves. While many familiar drinks brands have expanded their portfolios to include nolo options, the past couple of years have also seen an increase in the number of primarily non-alcoholic drinks companies. For the many consumers searching for a true alternative, rather than a substitute to alcohol, businesses that serve new, exciting products offer a fresh attraction.
With research showing that people were significantly more likely to choose a non-alcoholic beverage over an alcoholic one if there was a greater variety of options available, nolo drinks brands make themselves attractive not only to the ardent teetotalers set on conquering Dry January, but also to the more sober-curious among us, eager to try out a new way of drinking for a new year.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2023