But the question remains, are Alcohol Free (or Ultra Low Alcohol) Distilled Spirits the Drinks of the future or the Emperor’s New Clothes?

AG Barr, famous for its IRN-BRU soft drinks brand and Funkin Cocktail mixer, is the latest company to invest in the burgeoning ‘Low or No Alcohol’ category. They are reported to have invested in June 2019 an initial £1 million for a reported 20% stake in Elegantly Spirited, a start-up from Kent that launched Stryyk (pictured below) and makes Not Gin, Not Rum and Not Vodka.

William Grant & Sons also unveiled its ultra low alcohol new brand Atopia at 0.5% ABV in 2019, created by its Master Distiller Lesley Gracie, who is also behind Hendrick’s Gin.

“The distillates were selected and combined with care and precision, meaning you can pick out each flavour separately whilst no one flavour dominates over the other.” Lesley Gracie

Large drinks conglomerates, such as William Grant & Sons and Pernod Ricard are following on the footsteps of Diageo, and its investment in the first non-alcoholic spirits brand, Seedlip.

Pernod Ricard decided to support Ceder’s non-alcoholic ‘gin’ in 2018 (pictured below) by launching and distributing it. The brand sources many of its botanicals from a valley in the Cederberg mountains in South Africa’s Western Cape, and then the distilled botanicals are blended with Swedish water and bottled in Sweden.

However Diageo, via its spirits innovation division Distill Ventures, invested in Seedlip back in 2016. Since then, it has actively driven the ‘Low or No Alcohol’ category and promoted it via PR and its distribution network globally. Recently, in May 2019, Distill Ventures has released a White Paper entitled ‘Non Alcoholic Drinks – A Growth Story‘.

Diageo is also active in the Low Alcohol segment of the category and has released in 2018, Gordon’s Ultra Low Gin & tonic flavoured drinks. These products are ready to drink with less than 0.5% ABV and 68 calories per serve.

There are many other alternative brands available across the ‘Low or No Alcohol’ category and the topic has been looked at by Inside the Cask in previous blog posts – for reference:

Are Alcohol-free Distilled Spirits really necessary?’

‘7 Drinks Trends to watch in 2018’ (look out for the 2nd trend)

No one will question the need for alcohol free or ultra low alcohol alternatives and the principle of ‘mindful drinking’. However, for this emerging category to succeed, some key factors will need to be addressed such as Brand Concept, Taste Profile, Price and Competition.

David Gluckman is the man behind brands such as Bailey’s Irish Cream, Cîroc vodka, Tanqueray Ten gin and the book ‘That sh*t will never sell‘.

He has written an interesting feature for ‘The Buyer’ stating why Seedlip is the Emperor’s New Clothes. For the full article – click here.

You may agree or disagree with him, but one fact that none of us can deny is that the ‘Low or No Alcohol’ category, spearheaded by Diageo and Seedlip, needs to develop further on the key factors highlighted, in particular in reference to the Taste Profile and Price.

Personally, Price is the main challenge I’d have with the products in this category. They are often similar in price to a bottle of an alcoholic equivalent despite the fact that no alcohol excise duty is paid for…these key factors need to be addressed if the category does not want to remain a very niche offering and be perceived as the Emperor’s New Clothes by consumers….

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