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‘Mocktail’ party: Makers entertain alcohol-inspired flavours
Wednesday, 18 March, 2015, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Jennifer Zegler
  • Some health-conscious adults are swapping alcoholic beverages for soft drinks, inspiring flavour innovation that could expand CSD usage occasions and locations
  • Cocktail-inspired soft drinks have natural appeal to consumers who are reducing their alcohol consumption but also can introduce these complex flavours to non-drinkers
  • The range of alcohol-inspired soft drinks available in Japan showcases the potential upside for manufacturers in this niche

Soft drinks serve as substitutes for those wish to avoid alcohol
Health and wellness trends have found carbonated soft drinks facing negative stereotypes, but for some health-conscious individuals, soft drinks serve as alternatives to another embattled beverage option: alcohol. Carbonated soft drink manufacturers are recognising the opportunity to appeal to people who abstain or are cutting back on their alcohol consumption with flavours that mimic alcoholic beverages. The complex ingredients used in some cocktails also help to broaden flavour innovation horizons beyond traditional soft drink varieties, such as cola, cherry and lemon-lime.

For those who use soft drinks as alcohol alternatives, the options are growing, especially in Europe. Herbal and botanical flavours are becoming more popular in carbonated soft drinks, appealing to sophisticated tastes. In addition, markets such as Germany and Spain have seen rising popularity and increasing innovations in non-alcoholic beer. Meanwhile, carbonated soft drink-makers have become more direct with flavours and packaging that are similar to alcoholic beverages, appealing to those specific occasions when consumers want to appear to be or feel like they are drinking alcohol.

Alcohol-inspired carbonated soft drinks from Europe Light Live Alcohol-Free Hugo, Germany
Light Live Alkoholfreies Schäumendes Getränk (Alcohol Free Hugo) is a sparkling flavoured beverage made from alcohol free wine. The product contains half the calories of classic sparkling alcoholic drinks and retails in a 0.75L bottle.

Piñacolada Soda, Italy
DCM released a non-alcoholic Piña Colada cocktail in a 33-cl. can.

7Up Mojito flavour, Poland
PepsiCo offers an alcohol-free 7Up Mojito flavour featuring lemon, lime and mint flavours.

Schweppes Non-Alcoholic Aperitif, Italy
Schweppes developed a non-alcoholic aperitif with natural flavours. It is available in four 0.25-cl. Bottles.

In some European countries, the need for alcohol substitutions is stronger away from home than when at home, likely reflecting a need to have alternatives that fit the range of formal and informal occasions during which one might consume alcohol. Around four in 10 European adults also feel that bars, pubs or restaurants should make carbonated soft drinks more visible to consumers. This suggests that out-of-home swaps of alcoholic beverages for soft drinks could increase if promotion and awareness increased on-premise. (See Figure 1)

‘Mocktail’ flavors have a broad range of potential consumers
Alcohol-inspired soft drink flavors have a specific opportunity to appeal to consumers who have or are reducing their alcohol consumption.

Products with mojito, piña colada and aperitif flavours allow those who are cutting back or avoiding alcohol for even a limited time to continue to enjoy the flavours to which they are accustomed. Among key European countries, adults aged 15+ in Germany and Spain are more likely to be former drinkers rather than lifetime alcohol abstainers, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). (See Figure 2)The opportunity expands beyond countries where alcohol consumption is being reduced, such as in Europe, to those where alcohol is not commonly consumed, often for religious or societal reasons. For example, Bu-So Mocktail, or mock cocktail, is a bright blue-coloured sparkling fruit juice-based soft drink available in Thailand, where 70% of the population does not drink alcohol. Specifically, nearly 60% of Thai adults are lifetime abstainers from alcohol, meaning products that mimic cocktails might be their only experience with these flavour combinations.

Use of alcoholic beverage flavours in soft drinks, however, could be a concern depending on the alcohol age restrictions in a given country. A potential worry is that cocktail-inspired soft drinks might introduce consumers younger than the legal drinking age to alcohol flavours.

Yet, the opportunity to encourage substituting soft drinks for alcohol was strong enough for the US-based non-profit organisation Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) to launch branded non-alcoholic soft drinks in Mojito and Margarita flavours in the US. The drinks are packaged in slim 8.5-oz. cans, but the brand encourages serving them similarly to their cocktail inspiration, such as poured over ice. MADD’s non-alcoholic offerings also include alcohol-free wine and craft-brewed non-alcoholic beer.

‘Mocktails’ that target non-drinkers
 Bu-So Mocktail, Thailand
Bu-So Mocktail is a sparkling 12% mixed fruit juice beverage made with orange and pineapple juice.

MADD Virgin
Margarita, US
MADD Virgin Margarita is a lime- flavoured alcohol-free drink based on the classic Mexican cocktail.

MADD Virgin Mojito, US
MADD Virgin Mojito is a lime and mint-flavoured alcohol-free drink based on the classic Cuban cocktail.

Japanese companies translate cocktail, wine flavours into soft drinks
Japan is one market with a lot of activity in alcohol-free cocktail-, wine-and beer-inspired soft drink flavours. The country counts 31% of adults as alcohol abstainers, 19% of which are former drinkers, WHO data shows. These former drinkers could be drawn to the wide variety of cocktail and wine flavours that are available in non-alcoholic variants. The market also is noteworthy due to the overlap in category activity between leading companies. Asahi Group, Suntory Group and Kirin Company Ltd rank within the top four companies in the carbonated soft drink category as well as top eight companies in alcohol market share, according to Mintel estimates.

Japanese CSDs take inspiration from a variety of alcohol categories
Asahi 0% Alcohol Rum & Cola Flavour Drink, Japan
Asahi reformulated its 0% Alcohol Rum & Cola drink to have a fresher taste.

Suntory Light Rosé Wine Non-Alcohol Cocktail Drink, Japan
Suntory reformulated and repackaged its Light Rosé Wine Non-Alcohol Cocktail Drink. It now has a more alcohol-like, complex taste.

Kirin Aromatic Grape & Hop Carbonated Drink
Grape & Hop Carbonated Drink is designed for adults with the taste of fermented rice, grape juice and the aroma of hops.

Per capita consumption of carbonated soft drinks in Japan is forecast to increase annually through 2017, Mintel estimates show. In 2013, volume consumption per capita of soft drinks in Japan was 36.5 litre, which is predicted to grow to 42 litre by 2017. Alcohol-inspired soft drink flavours have the potential to further broaden the occasions during which Japanese adults opt for soft drinks.
For Japanese companies that are active in both non-alcoholic and alcoholic categories, soft drink innovations with alcohol inspirations could stave off flat forecasts in per capita volume consumption of beer and spirits. According to Mintel estimates, only per capita consumption of wine is slated to grow between 2013 and 2017, but from the smallest base. Forecasted per capita consumption of beer in Japan ranked at 46 litre, spirits at 8 litre and wine at less than 3 litre in 2014. While wine is slated to grow, the forecast is for per capita wine consumption to increase to nearly 4 litre per person by 2017. Thus, alcohol-inspired flavours could help offset decline in sales of alcoholic beverages.

The analyst’s view
  • Alcohol-free versions of popular cocktails, beer and wine provide adults who abstain from alcohol with options that do not require compromising on flavors or socializing.
  • “Mocktails” and other alcohol-inspired soft drinks have potential in a range of markets due to their appeal to those who are cutting back on alcohol as well as those who abstain entirely.
  • Japan’s alcohol-inspired soft drinks showcase the potential for flavor innovations that mimic cocktails, beer and wine to increase soft drink consumption occasions.

(The author is global food & drink analyst with Mintel)
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