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The Lowdown on ‘No & Low’

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The demand for no and low alcohol drinks has been blossoming for some time, but the coronavirus pandemic has really accelerated the pace of growth within the sector, bringing all things health and wellness to the forefront of our minds.

While alcohol-free beer has been in our supermarkets, restaurants, and bars for years, non-alcoholic spirits are a much more recent addition, dating back only as far as 2015 when what was described as the ‘world’s first’ non-alcoholic distilled spirit was launched by Ben Branson with Seedlip.

In some ways it’s hard to believe the market is still so young, but with a host of alcoholic drinks companies launching their own non-alcoholic offerings in recent times, it’s clear that the ‘NoLo’ sector is here to stay. In fact, drinks industry research body the IWSR is expecting the low/no alcohol market to grow by 34% in volume from 2020 to 2024, with the no/low spirits category being the sector it predicts will grow most rapidly.

What about Low & No post-Covid?

The popularity of low alcohol and alcohol-free drinks has risen dramatically over the past year, seeing a 32% rise in sales during the first lockdown, and this trend shows no sign of abating as the coronavirus restrictions ease.

In fact, non-alcoholic beverages seem to be becoming more mainstream for drinkers and non-drinkers alike. No longer the domain of the ‘dry drinker’, we’re seeing that more and more people are choosing to drink alcohol on some occasions, then opting for an alcohol-free spirit or cocktail on others. Whether that’s for health reasons, because they’re driving, because they have an early start the next day, or a multitude of other factors, people are now increasingly likely to be choosing their drink to match their circumstances on that particular day.

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Alcohol Free, out & about

As we head back out into pubs and restaurants, it will be interesting to see how this growing interest in alcohol-free is reflected in their drinks menus. A survey commissioned at the beginning of last year by alcohol free watchdog The Portman Group found that some 57% of adults said they would consider drinking a low alcohol beverage at a pub but only 43% said they had seen any for sale in a pub. Many of us have now got used to having a decent variety of booze-free options at home and will no longer be content with a limited soft drinks selection that offers little more than fruit juice and a range of sickly-sweet soda drinks. Now even when we’re not drinking alcohol, we want to feel that sense of occasion – and quite right too!

That’s what led us to create Sea Arch in the first place. At the time we were running a successful wine bar and found that more and more of our customers were looking for a grown-up, hangover-free alternative to enjoy when they were out but weren’t drinking or wanted to have a clear head the next day. The equivalent of something like a gin and tonic, for instance, that was refreshing but contained no alcohol.

Unable to find anything that we felt ticked all the boxes, we set to work creating our own juniper-based distilled spirit. Our Sea Arch Coastal Juniper is alcohol free and bursting with refreshing seaside botanicals, making it the perfect choice for occasions when you don’t want to drink alcohol. Crisp, complex and delicious served over ice with a premium tonic and a squeeze of citrus, it delivers all the taste and experience you expect on an evening out – or a relaxed night in, for that matter. In addition, it’s sugar-free, sweetener-free and calorie-free.

More ways to enjoy alcohol-free

Sea Arch works really well in alcohol-free cocktails too, or mocktails as they’re often called. We have some really tasty cocktail recipes on our website so it’s well worth trying out a few of these. We’ll be talking about non-alcoholic cocktails more in our next blog, so watch this space! Plus, we’re hoping to have some exciting cocktail-related news for you in the next few weeks…

Whether you’re a drinker or not, alcohol-free drinks are a real option nowadays for us all. They’re no longer aimed solely at people who have given up or are giving up the booze – quite the opposite, really. It’s not about taking something away anymore; it’s now about having more choice. A whole new drinks category has been created in just six years and it has opened up our options and broadened our expectations. It’s a really exciting time, both as a non-alcoholic drinks producer and as a consumer!

Quality and innovation are key

As ever, quality and innovation are key. When a market is growing this fast, with very little regulation, it’s too easy for people to jump on the bandwagon and produce something quickly without the care and attention it requires and deserves. With Sea Arch, for instance, we source only the best quality, natural botanicals, then individually extract the flavours using copper pot and steam distillation techniques before skillfully blending. This is a time-consuming process but it’s what makes our Coastal Juniper blend taste so good. The process is even more complex than creating a quality gin and goes some way to explaining why a premium non-alcoholic spirit is not cheap. If it is, it’s important to remember that it’s not going to be representative of the whole category, just as a cheap gin and a premium quality gin don’t taste similar at all.

In the future, expect to see further innovation in the no and low alcohol sector which, along with quality, is fundamental to the success of the category. From our side, we’re currently working on new expressions to introduce to our portfolio, which follows the successful launch of our RTD cans last year. More on this in due course…

So as you head back out into restaurants and pubs, do have a look at their non-alcoholic drinks options and perhaps try something new. Or why not order a bottle or two to try at home? If you don’t know where to start, we’d highly recommend a delicious and refreshing Sea & T!

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