How to market alcohol-free alternatives responsibly

When it comes to responsible marketing, alcohol-free alternatives should take their cue from alcoholic drinks in a number of areas: such as ensuring ads are clearly targeted at adults. But in general, alcohol-free drinks can enjoy more marketing freedom than alcohol drinks – providing they are clearly and unmistakably presented as alcohol-free products.

The new guidelines also say that – ‘on a precautionary best-practice basis’ – alternatives should not be presented as a drink to be consumed during pregnancy.

Alcohol-free drinks are a good thing, right?

Over a third (35%) of alcohol drinkers now consider themselves an occasional or regular drinker of alcohol alternatives – rising to close to half (44%) of 18-24 year olds, according to a YouGov survey commissioned by the Portman Group and published this month.

Furthermore, almost a quarter (23%) of UK drinkers have seen their alcohol consumption fall as a result of low and no alcohol products.  

There’s no doubt it’s a very positive trend: with alcohol drinkers turning to alcohol-free versions to help them moderate their consumption.

At the same time, however, research has raised concerns that these drinks could act as a gateway into alcohol for younger drinkers​.

In cases where an alcohol-free product is a line extension of flagship alcohol brand, there’s a danger that the alcohol-free version is simply used to boost branding and visibility​ for the alcoholic version – effectively sneaking past the strict rules for alcohol.

And – if using the same cues as alcohol drinks – even alcohol-free drinks could risk acting as a trigger​ for those at risk of harm.