Low2NoBev Show - RPC takes front row seat as exclusive legal sponsor as the "No/Lo" alcohol drinks category soars

21 September 2022. Published by Ciara Cullen, Partner and Harpreet Kaur, Associate and Samuel Coppard, Senior Associate

Ahead of RPC acting as the exclusive legal sponsor of the Low2NoBev Show taking place at Olympia London later this month (26 – 28 September 2022), it is useful to understand the fundamental changes happening in this growing sector and the potential discussion points that may arise relating to the marketing of these products.

What is happening?

Seeking to bring the Advertising rules on No/Lo products in line with the sector's increasing prominence: 

  • in January 2022, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) amended the rules under both the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising (the BCAP Code) and Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing (the CAP Code) on the advertising of low alcohol drinks; and
  • in February 2022, the ASA consulted on the advertising of alcohol-free alternatives to alcoholic drinks. Although the feedback is yet to be published, we expect to have an update very soon… 

Why does it matter?

As health and wellbeing continues to permeate the nation's psyche in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, consumers have indicated a stark desire to invest in their wellbeing and shift to healthier lifestyle choices. One such choice which has taken the UK food and drink industry by storm, is the health-conscious consumer's desire to embrace alternative alcohol options.

Whilst demand for traditional alcoholic products remains strong, the No/Lo market has gathered immense traction in the UK over the past couple of years, with Kantar reporting that supermarket sales of No/Lo alcohol products increased by 50.6% between 2020 and 2021.  

With this increased traction, the Adult Non-Alcoholic Beverage Association (ANBA), a trade association that aims to improve trade guidelines and tackle the absence of universal regulations, has launched in the UK and EU. So far, over 50 businesses have signed up as members, including Lyre's, Clean Co, Mocktail Club and Hairless Dog.

The ASA has also identified the recent uptake in the No/Lo market and recognised that raising awareness of the category through advertising could have positive implications for consumer wellbeing. With that in mind, the ASA reviewed the Advertising rules in relation to the marketing of no/lo alcohol drinks.

Low Alcohol

Prior to 18 January 2022, low alcohol drinks i.e., products with an ABV of 0.5 to 1.2%, could only be advertised as "preferable" for their low strength if they were the only product type in the ad. They could not be promoted as "preferable" to higher strength drinks, as the mere reference to the higher strength drink was classed as a promotion of that drink, in breach of the Advertising rules.

The ASA considered that this prevented the proper promotion of a category of products which consumers were increasingly invested in and thus removed the restriction from the Advertising rules, allowing retailers and brands to advertise low alcohol products alongside higher strength drinks.

No Alcohol

Alcohol free alternatives to alcoholic drinks are not currently covered by the alcohol Advertising rules, but given their increasing popularity, the ASA recently consulted on the implementation of new rules and guidance on their marketing. The proposed rules include a definition of "alcohol alternatives" (i.e. products at or under 0.5% ABV) and cover the concurrent promotion of alcohol alternatives and alcoholic drinks, as well as the inclusion of ABV statements for alcohol alternatives with an ABV higher than 0%. We expect to see the consultation feedback published any day now. 

What action should you consider?

For retailers and brands alike, the No/Lo category is of great interest:

  • Retailers should consider showcasing No/Lo products alongside traditional alcoholic beverages in order to capture No/Lo converts and new audiences who may not yet have considered the No/Lo option.
  • To avoid getting into hot water with the ASA, it would be sensible for retailers and brands to actively monitor the regulatory landscape in the No/Lo space to ensure that they: (i) do not mislead consumers when it comes to the marketing of No/Lo products, and (ii) comply with any applicable Advertising rules relating to the advertisement of alcoholic beverages when advertising No/Lo drinks, as there is significant overlap across the rules.
  • That being said, there is a balance to be struck by retailers and consumer brands between No/Lo products and traditional alcoholic products - which will no doubt continue to benefit the bottom line - particularly as consumer insights from Kantar demonstrate that the vast majority of No/Lo shoppers also purchase alcohol.
  • As the ASA turns its attention to the No/Lo market, we suspect it will not be long before the government considers ways to support the category, given ongoing commitments to tackle obesity, such as tax incentives for those producing and selling No/Lo beverages.

The Low2NoBev Show is the only dedicated show for the No/Lo drinks sector. For more information on the Show and how to register, please visit the Low2NoBev website. We hope to see you there!

Stay connected and subscribe to our latest insights and views 

Subscribe Here