Cheap brands devalue low-and-no sector

Emma Wykes, CEO of alcohol-free cocktail bitters brand Seasn, has expressed that the low-and-no category needs a premium price point to ensure its longevity.

Wykes made the comments during a panel, held at Mortimer House in London on 10 April. The panel discussion, called ‘How can we elevate no & low offerings to new heights’, was hosted by Club Soda founder Laura Willoughby.

Wykes was joined on the panel by Daniel I’Anson, commercial director of alcohol-free brand Everleaf; Raissa De Haas, co-founder of Double Dutch mixers; and Rohan Radhakrishnan, co-founder of low-ABV brand Quarter.

The panel was asked for their thoughts on pricing for low-and-no, and Wykes said if the category is really going to have longevity, then there “needs to be a premium price point because the liquids are hard and expensive to make”.

She explained: “I think the category has a real challenge, because there are so many non-alc variants of big alcohol IP brands that are driving the value of the category down by making things like Gordon’s Alcohol Free 0.0% and Tanqueray 0.0% far too cheap for the consumer.

“Even though that expands the category, it doesn’t actually offer the consumer a lot of choice. From my experience, these liquids are incredibly hard to make, particularly if you don’t have sugar and alcohol to preserve them.

“I think there will be a re-premiumisation of the non-alc category in terms of spirits. It’s good that there are non-alc variants out there though because they bring new drinkers to the category.”

Everleaf’s I’Anson was in agreement with Wykes, stating that he believes that the non-alc category will normalise as other spirits categories have done.

He said: “What we’ve seen in the on-trade, which is where we have our most experience, is that we’re now starting to pick up listings from really big operators where they’ve tried with the entry level, and people just aren’t coming back for a second drink.

“Everleaf is probably at the top of the pricing category, but we see that consumers are prepared to pay for it if the quality is there. And what we see from testing drinks on people and testing drinks with operators is that they will put it side by side with Tanqueray or Gordon’s, and they’ve tested it with consumers, put it to panels and put it to all of their development teams, and they’re happy to pay more because they know that people are going to come back for a second drink.”

Recent data from IWSR Drinks Market Analysis showed that the no-and-low market is now worth US$13 billion. The report also revealed that Millennials and Gen Z are the keenest age demographics to try drinks made with no or less alcohol.

Wykes worked as chief operating officer for alcohol-free ‘spirit’ Seedlip, which was founded by Ben Branson. Seasn is the first product from Branson and Wykes’ non-alcoholic venture studio, Pollen Projects.

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Author: Rupert Hohwieler