Spirits away in the UK

Spirits away in the UK

September 9, 2020

Alcohol-free spirits are the British drinks sector’s latest success story, with sales up 30% year-on-year – echoing the craft beer and gin booms of recent years, research by Bax Botanics has revealed. But could this success be repeated in other markets around the world?

British consumers have spent £5.4 million on 171,000 litres of alcohol-free spirits so far this year in supermarkets, according to the latest data from global measurement and data analytics company Nielsen.

Sales of alcohol-free spirits hit £37 million in 2019, up 506% since 2014, with revenues growing £11 million a year and expected to hit £74 million by 2024.

Alcohol-free spirits use herbs, berries, roots and botanicals to create complex flavours that make them a suitable substitute for spirits like gin. They can be enjoyed with mixers like tonic or ginger ale, or used in zero-alcohol cocktails.

Sales of the ‘no-to-low’ category – including zero and low-alcohol beers, wines and spirits – are worth £188 million in total, up 23% year-on-year. The growth comes as younger generations drink less alcohol and older people increasingly moderate their consumption.

Bax Botanics

Much of the growth in the alcohol-free spirit market has come from smaller, artisan distillers who use traditional techniques and sustainable methods.

Bax Botanics was launched in January 2019 by Chris and Rose Bax after 20 years of teaching about wild foods and flavours in their local woodlands. They distil their drinks in traditional beaten copper stills using ethically sourced and sustainable herbs and botanicals.

Sales of Bax Botanics’ drinks have risen 20% since lockdown hit the UK in March. Their two main products – Sea Buckthorn and Verbena – are sold in the UK cocktail bar chain The Botanist, and Booths supermarkets. Sea Buckthorn is the only alcohol-free spirit to win a Great Taste Award.

Chris Bax, head distiller of Bax Botanics, said: “Rose and I started producing our first alcohol-free spirit because we felt that England had reached ‘peak gin’.

“We live in the middle of nowhere and so one of us always has to drive whenever we go to the pub. There were always 20 craft beers to choose from, and loads of boutique gins, but the alcohol-free options just weren’t there.

“Now boutique gin production is starting to lose momentum, and the craft beer boom has stalled as the market has reached saturation point.

“Craft alcohol-free spirits are the latest home-grown success story, and artisanal producers like Rose and I are seeing soaring demand for our products.

“Like with craft beers, consumers have more sophisticated palates than some people realise, and we expect to see strong support for smaller producers despite big drinks brands trying to muscle into the market.”