It’s an interesting sign of the times when the director of a major alcohol supplier talks at length about moderation.

In fairness to Sam Rhodes, marketing director at Asahi UK, we are discussing Peroni Libera, the company’s entrant into the low and no alcohol market.

Launched in October 2019, the self-styled super-premium product has looked to ride on the success of its popular master brand, Peroni Azzurro Nastro .

Though boasting 6,000 stockists in the on-trade, and becoming the third most popular product in the low and no category, Covid-19 lockdowns have meant its progress has been stunted.

Having recently secured a global sponsorship deal with F1 team Aston Martin, Rhodes says the time is now right to take on the “big opportunity” of the on-trade.

“It’s definitely become a segment that is growing, and people want to have more choice within it, depending on the occasions that they’re out for,” he tells MCA.

“Certain behaviours we’ve seen during Covid may stay, others will revert back to what they were. Some of the trends we’re seeing is around people trying to be a little bit more moderate and balanced in their alcohol intake.”

Expanding on the theme, Rhodes says while consumer trends from the pandemic might show a mixed picture, certain demographics drank less alcohol due to being out less and home with their family.

He argues this could feed into a wider loosening of the stigma around not drinking alcohol, particularly when it comes to work and business meetings, a key driver for the recovery of city centres.

For operators, this is a no brainer, as a no and low beer represents a significant upsell for the many abstainers who default to tap water.

As consumers adopt more wellbeing and exercise-oriented lifestyles, low and no allows them to continue to participate in social and work occasions, he says.

“There’s no stigma attached to it. I think when people choose to moderate it might be that midweek drink with colleagues.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily that you have to stop drinking beer, you can continue your beer drinking, it’s just that you might make a choice to intersperse it with a low and no option.”

Is all this talk of moderation counter-intuitive for a major alcohol supplier, or a sign of its maturation as an industry?

Rhodes agrees it’s the latter, though says its also a response to customer expectations.

“It’s part of the evolution of consumers’ desires and wants,” he says.

“Once people start to ask for it, it makes it one of those things operators think they should probably have as an offering.”

There is an educational piece in terms of food pairing and drinks occasions, Rhodes says, while it allows more potential customer engagement throughout the day.

“People are going to be desperate to do business meetings, to go back in the pub over lunch, that is a habit that people will revert back to, it will feel like a novelty

“Having the right offers so that people can still operate when they’re back in the office I think is absolutely key.”

  • MCA’s parent company William Reed is hosting the Low2NoBev Show in June. To attend, click here