Retailers advised to prepare for up to six million Dry January drinkers

Retailers need to make sure they are prepared for the record number of people who are expected to take part in Dry January 2018, according to industry experts.

Producers of no and low alcohol drinks have reported a strong year of sales this year, and many say they expect this to ramp up once we move into 2018.  

And with up to six million people expected to take part in Dry January in 2018, they want to highlight to retailers what they see as “a clear opportunity” to cash in on consumers seeking out alternatives to booze.

Steve Magnall, chief executive of St Peter’s Brewery, recommends retailers maximise sales by listing a number of alcohol-free brands, in order to offer these consumers more choice.

“With demand growing, one brand is not a solution, they need to have a range of drinks: ciders, ales, lagers, wine and probably more than one brand in each category. They also need to have a good range of 0.0% alcohol options as 0.5% beers are not a solution for everyone.”

He adds that there has been a lot of innovation in the alcohol-free drinks category this year, and St Peter’s has been placing increased focus on this sector.

“Sales of alcohol-free beer account for 15% of our overall sales so there is a huge market for these products. We are running a three-week promotion with Tesco during Dry January offering 20% off St Peter’s Without.

“We have two strong brands: Without Original and Without Gold and we have just launched Without Organic.”

And others have moved into this space over the past year.

Big Drop Brewing Co claims to be the first brewer to focus exclusively on 0.5% abv beers, and on producing full-flavoured beer despite the low alcohol content.

There are now four beers in the range, with more NPD in the pipeline.

Meanwhile, North South Wines says its The Bees Knees zero alcohol fizz, which is in its second year of trading, has secured a number of national listings and sales have tripled in the past six months.

Joy Edmondson, buying and marketing director, said: “Research has shown us that we should consider the non-alcoholic drinks category as an opportunity for our industry and not a threat. This is borne out by strong sales for The Bees Knees. We expect a significant spike in sales in the New Year with approximately five to six million people expected to do Dry January in 2018.”

The Bees Knees is designed to look like an entry-level sparkler. It is available in Brut and Rose and it is priced at £3.99 for a 75cl bottle. It is currently available in more than 80 outlets, including Ocado, Morrison’s, Nisa, Booths and Adnams.

And Reh Kendermann says sales of low and no alcohol wines are already experiencing steady growth as we go through the party season, with many consumers opting for nights off the booze, while still wanting to socialise.

Kantar’s latest market research shows that sales of low and no alcohol wines are up by 8.5%.

The producer says sales of its B by Black Tower brand are strong, with 18.5% year-on-year growth through UK supermarkets. 

Ian Wingate, Reh Kendermann UK's national account director, said: "As youthful brands B by Black Tower and B Fruitful 5.5% abv wines have seen strong growth in the last 12 months, driven primarily by reaching more shoppers. As a major supplier to the UK of alcohol-free wines, we are also seeing very pleasing double-digitgrowth for year-on-year sales. This is true of all styles, not just sparkling, where uplift would be expected in line with the continuing sparkling wine boom.

"We are really excited about the coming year as Black Tower continues to innovate and launch further NPD into the rapidly growing low and no alcohol category."