09 February 2022

Marketing Week: Meet the brands using design to elevate their categories

Gone are the days when no and low alcohol (NOLO) beers, spirits and wines appealed only to teetotallers and designated drivers.

According to IWSR drinks market analysis, NOLO drinks sales in the UK grew by 17% in 2021 alone, notching up more than £100m in value. The category is attracting a diversity of drinkers, from sober Gen Z consumers to health conscious millennials regularly reaching for a booze-free alternative.

Much the same goes for plant-based food and drink. Once a niche sub-category largely overlooked by major FMCG brands, the vegan and vegetarian sector is now worth £600m, according to Kantar.

As these alternative products have undergone a transformation in customer perception, transitioning from poor relation to first choice, how has their brand identity and broader marketing strategy evolved?

In the NOLO sub-category there’s undoubtedly been a shift, believes marketing director for Europe at Accolade Wines, Tom Smith. The company has several low-alcohol wines in its portfolio, including 0% Hardy’s Chardonnay and its 5.5% Fruit Fusions range, which was given a new look in July 2021.

"With a vegan or plant-based product there can be this feeling of missing out and one way to avoid that is to convey it with the packaging." Christa Bloom-Burrows, Biffs

“No and low alcohol products are no longer perceived as the shameful alternative to their regular counterparts. For years the sector struggled with a perception crisis, largely based on the inferior taste of products and limited choice available,” says Smith.

“This has massively changed with big developments in the manufacturing process meaning that no and low alternatives can still offer a great-tasting drink.”

In response, the market has seen a “more playful, adventurous design language come through”, says founder of creative design agency Brandon Consultants, Richard Taylor.

“In the non-alcoholic spirits market, you’ve got the likes of Seedlip who’ve come in and shaken the market up with a brand identity that’s very much born of craft, care, nature and botanicals,” he notes. “Their language plays to how the product is made, the craft, the care and love that’s gone into it and we’ve seen other brands follow suit.”

In using “a more sophisticated” design in this way, such brands are not only able to justify price tags often on par with alcoholic equivalents, but create a product that can be displayed in a drinks cabinet or served at a dinner party, Taylor adds.

In other words, these brands are using design to position their products as an equally compelling option. This was the ethos behind alcohol free spirits brand Caleño, which launched in 2019 in direct response to a lack of “fun” alcohol-free drinks on the market.

“It is incredibly important that our branding is colourful, vibrant, fun and energetic, and puts a smile on everyone’s face,” says marketing and brand partnerships manager, Becki Stephens.

“From our bottle designs to the delicious tropical non-alcoholic cocktails we serve up we put time, care and attention into every element of our branding and products – it’s our visual identity and personality. We very much want to show that you can have a good time, go out, dance and laugh without needing alcohol, and our brand positioning is grounded in this objective.”

To read the full article visit Marketing Week

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