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Young people drive demand for alcohol alternatives

The number of 18-24 year olds who identify as regular or occasional drinkers of low and no-alcohol drinks has soared in the past year as the products continue to make inroads into the mainstream drinks market.

The Portman Group’s sixth annual survey in partnership with YouGov showed that young people are the biggest consumers of low and no-alcohol alternatives, with nearly half (44%) of 18-24 year olds considering themselves either an occasional or regular drinker of alcohol alternatives in 2023, compared to 31% in 2022.

Trends also show that the younger generation are now the most sober age group overall, according to the research, with 39% of 18-24 year olds not drinking alcohol at all.

Increased availability of low and no-alcohol products has also contributed to an overall reduction in reported alcohol consumption. Almost a quarter (23%) of survey respondents said their alcohol consumption decreased in the past year as a result of low and no-alcohol products compared to 21% in 2022.

Three quarters (75%) of UK drinkers said they have now tried a low and no-alcohol alternative, compared to a third (33%) of non-drinkers.

The most popular reasons to drink alcohol alternatives are to avoid drinking excessively at social events and being able to drive home.

The Portman Group, the industry funded body to promote responsible drinking habits, said the results reinforced how these drinks can play an important role in tackling wider alcohol-related harm. “It is welcome to see a further rise in the popularity of low and no-alcohol alternatives as well as further evidence of how they are an important tool to help UK drinkers, particularly younger adults, to drink responsibly,” said CEO Matt Lambert.

Suffolk brewer Adnams recently launched its Ghost Ship 0.5% ale in a 330ml canned format to meet growing demand. Adnams head of production Fergus Fitzgerald told What’s Brewing, the in-house newspaper of the Campaign for Real Ale: “It seemed like a big leap in 2018 to invest in the technology to be able to brew a 0.5% version of our best-selling beer, but we wanted to make sure we captured the flavours as closely as we could. It was clearly the right thing to do as Ghost Ship 0.5% is now our second-best selling beer and is still growing.”

Fitzgerald added that while historically it has been drinkers of Ghost Ship 4.5% that bought the low-alcohol variant, it is now attracting customers “who don’t really know the original beer it was based on”.