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This report examines how No and Low Alcohol (NoLo) beverages are marketed and promoted in the UK and explores how and why consumers drink them. Whilst a more nuanced understanding of the expanding NoLo market and changes in drinking practices is important for policy and public health debates, this topic remains under-researched. The report adds to the evidence base on NoLo consumption in the UK through interviews with drinkers and nondrinkers alongside an examination of marketing and social media outputs for two popular NoLo drinks (Heineken 0.0 and Seedlip).
The examination of marketing materials found that strategies used to promote NoLos include opening up new contexts and times to drink (addition marketing), selling lifestyles and identities and sports marketing/sponsorship. These techniques draw – at times implicitly – on health messages and gendered stereotypes regarding drinking. The interviews found that drinkers and non-drinkers value the increased availability of NoLo drinks and incorporate them flexibly into their own (non)drinking routines. Perceived benefits included both those that come from NoLos being like alcohol as well as those that stem from NoLos being distinct from alcohol. Participants shared some negative perceptions about the ways in which these products are promoted, including the risks of alibi advertising and addition marketing. Whilst there was evidence of the addition approach in marketing, this was not reflected in participants’ practices and there was resistance to the idea of creating new drinking occasions for NoLo consumption. Rather, participants wanted to drink NoLos in traditional drinking settings in place of alcohol.
Expansion of the NoLo market may bring challenges, but the potential role of NoLos in supporting moderate drinking for some consumers should not be disregarded. There was evidence of problematic marketing practices that may perpetuate alcohol-related harm, such as addition marketing and alibi marketing, and NoLos may be promoted in ways that reinforce social norms around (a) drinking and gender, and (b) alcohol consumption more widely. However, there may be a disconnect between addition-based marketing strategies and everyday (non)drinking routines, as consumers may use NoLos as a substitute for alcohol or regard them as a tool to support a flexible or ‘hybrid’ model of moderate drinking. It may be possible to encourage such practices more widely, although this should take place against a backdrop of adequate NoLo marketing regulation. It is also important to note that these products currently represent a very small segment of the overall alcohol market, potentially limiting opportunities for meaningful reductions in alcohol-related harm at a population level.
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