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The remarkable rise of zero-alcohol fizz

No-alcohol fizz continues to sparkle, with the category full of potential. And it’s not just for teetotallers, Jessica Mason reports.

Imagine a Venn diagram containing two big drinks trends – sparkling wine and alcohol-free drinks. Now consider where they overlap. Unequivocally, non-alcoholic fizz is a burgeoning movement. People want it and some of the best in the business are making it. But there is still potential for it to grow.

Paul Bolton, client director at CGA by NIQ, agrees, describing how “the no and low category is one of the stand-out performers in drinks over the last year, with total value up more than 32%”, and observint that there is also a crossover with trends for fizz too, presenting what he calls “an opportunity”.

According to Bolton, “with sparkling wine in sturdy growth versus a year ago, there remains an opportunity to target the right consumers with the right brands in the right outlets” – and the time is now for wine producers, retailers and publicans to act.

Looking Stateside, the trend is still in its infancy, but growing rapidly. To corroborate this, Giesen Group chief winemaker Duncan Shouler says that “in the Nielsen data we have for the US, sparkling makes up 29% of the nonalcoholic wine category, worth US$17 million and up 4.2% versus the prior year”. That’s a generous wedge of the category, but there is data to suggest that it will grow further. Citing IWSR figures, Zonin1821 vice president Francesco Zonin points out that “from 2022-2026, low-alcohol sparkling wine is expected to grow at a rate of +4.4%”, and “no-alcohol sparkling wine at +4.8%”.

When it comes to the biggest markets for low- and no-alcohol fizz, it seems that American consumers are certainly fans, with Brits also grasping for their flutes to get in on the craze. Shouler suggests that the “biggest opportunity” is currently in the US, where the “no-alcohol wine category is growing at 18% by volume (MAT 9/9/23) within a declining total wine category”. Indeed, if there is anything to celebrate, it has bubbles in it and virtuous appeal.

Florence Fagan, UK brand and marketing manager for Grands Chais de France Group (GCF), which owns alcohol-free fizz brand Nozeco, agrees that the UK and US are both big markets for the brand and goes on to identify that “in terms of age group, in the UK, we know Nozeco is big amongst 18- to 30- year-olds, but we were surprised to see that it is actually even more popular amongst 30- to 60-year-olds”. According to Fagan, this illustrates how “people of all ages” are taking notice of alcohol-free alternatives, “not just the welldocumented younger generation”.

Echoing this sentiment, Shouler agrees that non-alcoholic sparkling wine drinkers are not a narrow demographic. And he is well placed to comment as Giesen has a six-product-strong portfolio of 0% alcohol wines, plus three Pure Light (6% ABV) wines in its range. Shouler explains: “Very soon after launching, we quickly recognised that our primary target audience was, in fact, winedrinking consumers across a wide range of ages and demographics.”

Zonin is in agreement, pointing out that sparkling Zonin Cuvée Zero was “recently developed for the 25- to 45-yearold drinker as a direct response to the escalating demand for alcohol-free products in the UK”

Zonin says that, in addition to the UK, there are plans for the brand to expand further across other markets. “This product aims to reach the growing segment of consumers in strategic markets that include Germany, France, Australia, Belgium and Sweden.”

Interestingly, the trend stretches across not only markets and demographics, but also a plethora of drinking occasions. According to Zonin, there are many reasons why someone may choose a glass of zero alcohol bubbly. “Maybe they’re pregnant, driving, [there are] underlying health reasons, religious beliefs, they are enjoying an early-morning start the next day, or simply don’t want to drink alcohol,” he suggests, highlighting that some people “may prefer the lower calories and sugar intake associated with removing alcohol from their beverage”.

Taking this into account, Paul Schaafsma, managing director of Benchmark Drinks, which looks after Kylie Minogue’s wine range, argues that, for every trend, there is always a stylish brand that consumers embrace. In this instance, he says, the zero-alcohol fizz from Kylie hits the mark. “Since its launch last year, Kylie Minogue 0% Sparking Rosé is now the biggest-selling premium 0% sparkling wine in the UK,” says Schaafsma, noting that it is available in major UK retailers, including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Co-op, Morrisons and Asda. According to Schaafsma, the flavour profile of Kylie Minogue 0% Sparkling Rosé sets it apart, “along with the fact that each glass is only 22 calories, versus a typical glass of Prosecco at 95 calories” — a draw for people who are conscientious about their health and wellbeing.

Over at GCF, Fagan explains that there are additional reasons why nonalcoholic sparkling wine has the edge over non-alcoholic still wines, and hastens to emphasise that “technically speaking, a sparkling product always helps to cover the lack of alcohol mouthfeel”. She adds that “this helps explain the great success that alcohol free beers have had, for example.”

Shouler agrees and says that, “when removing alcohol from any wine, the weight of the wine on the mid-palate feels lighter. For sparkling non-alcohol wines, the introduction of effervescent bubbles helps to fill that void and increase palate weight. Therefore some consumers might find non-alcohol sparkling wines more palatable compared to non-alcohol still wines”. That’s a potential win for fizz in terms of building body into a wine that might otherwise feel thin in the mouth. Ultimately, though, non-alcoholic bubbly has also become a staple for consumers because of a range of lifestyle preferences, meaning that non-alcoholic options are not, it seems, just for teetotallers. Drinking less has come to say as much about people moderating their alcohol intake as it does about the sobriety movement. Essentially, it could be fair to say that the bubbles create the moment, not the alcohol.

According to Shouler, the trend is not linked so much to abstaining from alcohol as to simply limiting intake. People adore alcohol-free fizz because it helps the moment to still feel like a special occasion. Shouler says: “For these consumers, health and wellbeing are becoming more of a focus, which includes moderation of alcohol. They don’t want to totally abstain from alcohol, but they include no-alcohol wine within various social occasions. They still want to enjoy the taste of a quality wine, but don’t want the aftereffects of alcohol on certain occasions.”

Zonin notes that “opting for alcohol free may not be for everyone. But for those with a desire to participate in the excitement of drinking a special something, alcohol-free wines represent an inclusive way of being part of the conversation without having to sacrifice other personal values or preferences”.

Fagan adds: “We’ve certainly heard from our customers that they love the ceremony of popping open a bottle of alcohol-free fizz for events such as baby showers. There are currently a lot more alcohol-free sparkling products on the market than there are alcohol-free still wines, so my guess is that its popularity also has a lot to do with availability.”

But how is the no and low fizz trend taking off in retail? Zara Cassidy, low and no buyer at Majestic, says: “Low and no represents an important basket addition for our customers, and complements our core wine, beer and spirits offering.

We are always looking to bring new products into the range as we know our customers are enjoying exploring both low and no alcohol options, not just for Dry January but all year round.”

In terms of bubbles, Majestic stocks Thomson & Scott’s Noughty 0% and Noughty Rosé 0% for £9.99 per bottle, as well as Freixenet 0% and Freixenet Rosé 0% at £6.99 per bottle. From a broader supermarket perspective, Morrisons is now looking at reformulating some of the mid-tier and cheaper wines in its range to hit a lower ABV and price point for its customers, while simultaneously broadening its range of more premium alcohol-free wines. Category director for BWS John Morris hints that this dual approach is due to Morrisons looking for new ways to cater for customers at all price points.

“We have quite openly looked to reformulate some of our mid-tier and cheaper range,” he says. This may ready the retailer to add more zero-alcohol fizz.

Morrisons wine buying manager Emma Jenkinson explains that, with wine, “it is about getting that sweet spot of what is the right ABV level”, adding that the team is currently trialling various lower ABVs to gauge shoppers’ reactions. According to Morris, “no and low wines have probably traditionally been the toughest one to get right quality-wise, but from five years ago to now the quality has improved immensely”. He concedes that “there’s probably a little way to go if we’re going to be honest, but I think it’s going the right way, especially with lower alcohol sparkling”.

The creation and the craft involved in the end product cannot be overlooked either. This is no knee-jerk trend. It’s a thoroughly considered process. Giesen’s Shouler explains: “In regards to production of our no-alcohol wines, we first make full-strength wine using premium fruit sourced from our vineyards across New Zealand. Then, using our own spinning cone technology, we gently distil/remove the aroma and alcohol, then we add the aroma back into the no-alcohol base blend to ensure the end result is true-to-style of that variety.”

Similarly, describing the intricacies of the methods, Zonin says that to create its Cuvée Zero fizz, Zonin challenged itself to “develop a product with close organoleptic properties to sparkling wine, but containing less than 0.5% alcohol.” It was for this reason that the Italian producer also selected the spinning cone column distillation method, a gentle process of dealcoholisation that doesn’t compromise the flavour and texture of the beverage.”

But who is really leading the way in the non-alcoholic sparkling wine sector? Nozeco is certainly turning heads. As Fagan points out, GCF has Nozeco Spritz, Nozeco Peach Bellini and Nozeco Bucks Fizz as part of its current portfolio, and is “always developing new products for the brand and experimenting with different ingredients and flavour profiles” to show it is not standing still and is constantly innovating in the space. In terms of who ‘owns’ this corner of the market, Shouler observes that, to begin with, a business needs enough money to pay for the dealcoholisation technology, which can be costly.

“The technology we use to make noalcohol wines is expensive, and we have chosen to own our technology to ensure quality across our no-alcohol wine portfolio,” he says. “However, there is technology out there that can be rented to process full-strength wine in order to produce no-alcohol wine. There are also a number of different ways to remove alcohol from full-strength wine, which perhaps smaller start-ups can look to employ if they want to enter the noalcohol wine market.”

Whatever happens from here, whether it’s a big or small business, a celebrity endorsed brand or completely unknown winery, one thing is certain: non-alcoholic fizz is the toast of tomorrow that we are all (quietly and soberly) talking about.

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