© 2021 All rights reserved. SEOmaxim UK
A record number of Britons are planning to forego booze during so-called dry January, after re-evaluating their home drinking habits during lockdown and as sales of “no and low” alcohol alternatives soar.
The charity Alcohol Change UK said its polling shows more than 6.5 million adults intend to participate in dry January – up from 3.9 million last year. That is the equivalent of one in five of people who drink alcohol.
With drinking now largely home-based, the Portman Group – the social responsibility and regulatory body for alcohol in the UK – said ongoing Covid restrictions and curfews had increased consumers’ thirst for hangover-free options from the supermarket and corner shop.
Its research reveals that almost two-thirds of UK adults (62.5%) have tried beers, wines or spirits in the “nolo” drinks category. In addition, a quarter (25%) of drinkers consider themselves to be semi-regular consumers of low and no alcohol, with the highest consumption in Scotland (27%). Separate data from Nielsen Scantrack suggests that low and no alcohol sales rose by 30% year-on-year.
The Dry January campaign to encourage abstinence at the start of the New Year was launched in 2013 in the UK by Alcohol Change UK – initially attracting just 4,000 people – but has since expanded, with Public Health England as a partner, to become a major fixture on the post-Christmas binge calendar.
“2020 has been a year like no other,” said Dr Richard Piper, chief executive of Alcohol Change UK. “Many of us have spent the year stressed, scared and tired. When things get tough, we can find ourselves slipping into drinking habits we wish we could break, but Dry January can help. It’s our chance for a reset – 31 days to try something new, and to see some amazing benefits like brighter skin, a fuller wallet, a calmer mind and a better night’s sleep.”
Its poll also showed that one in four adults who drink alcohol are aiming to cut down generally in 2021. People who download its free app, Try Dry, are twice as likely to have a totally alcohol-free month and drink more healthily in the longer-term.
Separate research from the Portman Group reveals that one quarter (26%) of UK drinkers had cut the amount they had been drinking compared with prior to the first Covid-19 lockdown in March, while a further 7% had stopped drinking altogether.
“Lockdowns and the tier system have given Britons cause to consider their alcohol consumption, with many drinking less than ever before,” said the Portman Group chief executive, John Timothy. “Low and no alcohol alternatives offer the perfect balance of replicating the atmosphere created by alcohol without any of the associated risks.”
Major brands and start-ups have tapped into the burgeoning sector, where innovation has improved choice, quality and taste. “Nolos have come a long way since the days of Barbican, which tasted like cold Horlicks,” said beer writer Roger Protz. “There are some excellent, full-tasting beers to be had. Small Beer in south London specialises in low alcohol beers full of malt and hop flavours. BrewDog’s Nanny State (0.5% alcohol by volume) is a bestseller while for my money Adnams’ 0.5% version of its brilliant cask ale Ghost Ship is lip-smackingly good.”
Diageo has just unveiled an alcohol-free version of its popular Gordon’s gin – already on sale in Tesco and Amazon and in other supermarkets from 3 January, although its hotly-anticipated alcohol-free Guinness was recalled in November, two weeks after launch, due to contamination
Emma Heal, managing director of British alcohol-free beer brand Lucky Saint – the UK’s first non-alcoholic lager on draught, said: “The step change in product quality on offer is driving such huge interest in the no and low category. We see dry January 2021 as a great opportunity for people to try these drinks to help them moderate their drinking and start the year in a positive way.”