Have the facts to hand to offer advice on alcohol-free and lower strength drinks

Date Published

14th January 2022

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For many, January is a time for good intentions and new goals. For those drinkers wishing to cut down in 2022, the boom in alcohol-free and lower strength drinks may help them achieve their resolutions. With off-trade at the forefront of driving sales, what advice can you give to customers looking to the emerging category to help them cut back?

Adam Jones, Drinkaware’s business development and partnerships director shares some guidance to help ensure those pledges count in January and throughout 2022:

“For many of us, New Year represents a chance to set new goals or improve our health and wellbeing. There is a wider range of alcohol-free or lower strength drinks available in the off-trade than ever before, something that can directly appeal to customers looking to cut down in 2022. We know from our research, however, that the terminology around alcohol-free and lower strength drinks isn’t always well understood. That is just one place where Drinkaware’s guidance can help:  

Definitions and terminology can be confusing for staff and customers alike

Our 2021 Monitor report showed people had a poor understanding of alcohol-free and lower strength drinks. Only 5.1% of our 9,137 participants were able to correctly identify what the labels of ‘alcohol-free’ and ‘low strength’ drinks mean in terms of ABV. To help clear things up:

  • For drinks produced in the UK, low alcohol drinks refer to those which have an ABV (alcoholic strength by volume) of between 0.05 and 1.2%
  • Drinks classified as alcohol-free may contain a small amount of alcohol but only at a strength of 0.05% or less
  • Reduced or lower strength drinks have an alcohol content lower than the average strength of a particular type of drink - wine with an ABV strength of 5.5%, is a reduced alcohol wine, as opposed to a low alcohol wine

The terms low and no are often used together but represent quite different products. Drinkaware therefore recommends using low alcohol, lower strength or alcohol-free descriptions to help consumers make the most informed decisions about their drinking.

Definitions can also vary across different countries, so with many products being imported into the UK from oversees it is useful to always double check the ABV before advising customers.

Suitability for anyone who cannot drink alcohol

Low alcohol and alcohol-free drinks may still contain a small amount of alcohol and are therefore not appropriate for anyone who is avoiding alcohol completely.

Health

Substituting low alcohol, lower strength and alcohol-free drinks for higher ABV products can help customers reduce the amount of alcohol they drink and keep to the UK Chief Medical Officers’ low-risk drinking guidelines, which can bring many important health benefits. But these products may also contain more calories than the traditional higher strength drinks, so it’s worth remembering they cannot always be described as ‘healthier’ or ‘healthy choices’.

Drinking lower strength and alcohol-free drinks can help prevent alcohol harm when used instead of traditional, higher strength drinks

Drinking low alcohol and alcohol-free products can help people reduce their alcohol intake, providing a valuable moderation tool. However, the technique only works when used as substitution for higher strength alcoholic alternatives. Consuming low alcohol or alcohol-free drinks in addition to usual drinking, won’t see drinkers gain the benefits associated with reducing their alcohol intake.

Final tips to help cut back

In additional to alcohol-free, low alcohol and lower strength options, a few good techniques that staff can recommend to customers to help them cut back include:

  • Setting a goal and tracking progress – why not suggest customers download the MyDrinkaware app to help stay on track
  • Taking several drink free days each week
  • Telling a partner, family member or friend about plans to cut down and asking them to encourage, support or join in with the goal

For all those looking to make a positive impact on their health in 2022 by reducing how much alcohol they drink, Drinkaware is there to help. For more information, tips and advice head to drinkaware.co.uk