NoLo drinks category on the rise as younger generations opt for health, abstinence

The choice of whether to consume alcoholic drinks or not is, sadly, greatly stigmatising in South Africa. There’s a generation of people who are asked ‘why not?’ when they decline a drink, with the connotation that they’re not ‘joining in’ or there’s ‘something wrong’ with them. 

It’s painted as very ‘un-South African’ to not enjoy a drink, eat braaied meat, watch sport or make jokes about Eskom. In the past year, there’s been a positive shift being led by the younger generation, whose focus on health and wellbeing (specifically following the pandemic) has seen the adoption of no-alcohol or low-alcohol (‘NoLo’) beverages as the norm. 

Fewer young people today drink alcohol – or drink alcohol in excess – marking an entirely necessary and ongoing transition to more healthy, natural, organic, non-GMO ways of eating, drinking and living, in general. 

Fiona Hilton from alcohol free e-tailer Drink Nil says, “Whether your reasons are religious, health-related, in the interests of maintaining a clear head – or simply because you want to – there’s no reason that not wanting to consume alcohol should see you stigmatised. 

“The availability of a massive array of non-alcoholic drinks means you don’t have to choose between being a ‘drinker’ or ‘abstainer’ – it’s an entirely new way to enjoy yourself.” 

NoLo is an entirely new category of drinks, rather than a substitute for alcoholic ones – an exciting option, not a trade-off. Splitting that group into no alcohol and low-alcohol – opens the variety up even further. 

In South Africa, plenty of non-alcoholic wines and bubbles, gins, spirits, beer, ready-to-drink options like ‘mocktails’ and interesting sparkling tonics, sodas and seltzers are available through high street stores and e-tailers like Drink Nil

A drink can be called non-alcoholic or de-alcoholised if it contains 0.5% or less alcohol by volume (ABV). A drink may be labelled ‘alcohol-free’ if it contains 0.05% or less alcohol by volume (ABV). 

If a beverage contains alcohol, the label must reference its ABV, even in trace amounts. A drink that is 0.0% ABV may contain less than one 20th of a percent of alcohol – the same amount found in a very ripe banana or pear. By comparison, alcoholic beers generally start around 4% ABV, wines at 12% and spirits 40% and up. 

The vast number of new products entering the market from traditional alcohol brands and new producers has developed non-alcoholic drinks as a quality and enjoyable option to the array of choices people are able to consume, for those who choose not to drink alcohol for their own reasons. 

“These drinks have come a long way in a very short space of time – another industry accelerated by the pandemic and the shift towards a healthier lifestyle – led by variety, quality and innovation,” concludes Hilton.


Article first appeared in Retail Brief Africa on 8 June 2022: