Four ways to win the mindful drinking movement

Unless you’ve been living with your head in a decanter, you’ll know that the UK is drinking less. A fifth of Britons stated they are teetotal, that’s 10.4 million people abstaining from alcohol, and millions more are cutting down their consumption. And with a third of 16-24 year olds owning the teetotal title, the future of alcohol consumption as we know it is looking a little bit sobering. We take a look at what’s driving the momentum behind this mindful drinking movement and the four ways to make a success out of sobriety. 

1. Freedom

Trend: Life without limits
Let’s face it, we are never at our best on a hangover. And whether it’s the external pressure of social media to ‘be your best self’ or an internal realisation that Saturday mornings don’t have to be a write off because of Friday nights, more people are saying hell no to hangovers and hello to the freedoms of life with a clear-head. 

Take Away: Focus on the emotional, not just the functional
While many of the overarching trends focus on the functional influences behind reduced drinking, this is lifestyle choice as much as anything else. Focus on the myriad emotional benefits it brings; more time, more freedom, more opportunities to get up and go do whatever it is  you love doing without being hindered by headaches (even if that’s doing yoga while thinking about non alcoholic beer like implied in Heineken’s non-alc ad campaign).

2. Function

Trend: Health has gone mainstream
The war on sugar, the cult like status of sports brands, the rise of clean labelling, the vindication of veganism, the 5-2 diets, the dry Januaries…there’s no doubt health has gone fully mainstream. Whether it’s shaping up due to longer life expectancies or trying to regain a bit of (self) control in turbulent times, it’s clear consumers are more conscious than ever about their well being. As part of this ongoing pursuit to be their best selves, consumers are reaching more frequently for low sugar and low to no alcohol drinks. 

Take Away: Be the even healthier option
Not drinking is healthy. Replacing alcohol with a functional drink is even healthier. If health is the challenge, low calorie, low sugar and actively ‘good for you’ non-alcoholic drinks are a very appealing answer. Nonsuch master-blenders are nailing this with their all-natural mix of fruit, herbs, sparkling spring water and apple cyder vinegar. These new age drinking vinegars are full of nutrients and health benefits and with fruity flavours like Blackcurrant & Juniper, this is not vinegar for your chippy. What the healthy choice can’t be is boring…

3. Flavour

Trend: A matter of taste
Alcohol has many roles, but crucially it provides a more sophisticated drinking experience vs saccharine softs. (Rightfully) ignoring shots, spirits’ layered flavours and complex palettes are designed to sip and savour. Until recently these palettes were reserved for alcohol, which meant slower, more mindful drinking was reserved for alcohol with softs existing just to be gulped down. 

Take Away: Cater to adventurous and complex palettes
Simply put non-alcoholic flavours should be just as adventurous as their counterparts. There is a demand for new tastes and intriguing flavour combinations across the board and non-alcoholic is in prime position to experiment with unusual tastes. Botanics are happily meeting this demand for the new, showing their variety and depth of flavour is just as bountiful in the booze free world with the likes of Aecorn and Everleaf aperitifs. 

4. Form 

Trend: Experience over excess
Historically not drinking meant sitting with a glass of Coke/tomato juice/sparkling water trying to feel as sophisticated as your cocktail-sipping friends. Not any more. Whether alcoholic or nonalcoholic drinks are not just drinks, they are part of a lifestyle. They are an experience, and we are living in an experience economy. Alcohol has been rooted in sociability, ceremony, rituals and extravagance for centuries and, because of this, the category has produced some of the most beautiful and covetable brands in the world. This image should not be exclusive to alcohol. In fact, it cannot be…

Take Away: Make abstinence artful
Drinks void of alcohol should never be void of style. Nor should they be any less social. They need to look the part and they need to make their drinker feel the part. Caleño is nailing the sociable free spirit angle, Budweiser prohibition brew almost makes abstaining cooler than its core, Seedlip’s brand is as elegant as their serves and The Connaught Bar’s virtuous cocktails are just as much of an experience as the ‘hard’ ones. 

In essence, to capitalise on the rise of the sophisticated softs, brands need to address at least three of these take-aways, ideally all four. But, more than this, with the range of drinks out there, each brand needs to be clear about what role, occasion and need they are fulfilling. Only then can they start carving out their own space. Only then can they start developing their own lexicon that goes beyond mimicking spirits. Only then can these emergent drinks overcome their biggest challenge: educating consumers about their new, exciting propositions.