New No/Low route to enjoy alcohol-free festive season

Entrepreneurial couple David and Jill Crawford have come up with an option for those seeking to cut-out or cut back on alcohol especially during Christmas and New Year celebrations.

By Sam Butler
Saturday, 11th December 2021, 5:07 pm
David and Jill Crawford of No/Lo Drinks in Portaferry are focusing on offering alcohol-free or low drinks in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland
David and Jill Crawford of No/Lo Drinks in Portaferry are focusing on offering alcohol-free or low drinks in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland

They’ve set up DrinkNo/Low, an innovative small business, that enables those concerned about alcohol intake to access easily beverages online either with no or reduced alcohol from established global manufacturers. The service is also available to traders here such as off-licences and independent grocers to offer these beverages to shoppers.

The couple, based at Portaferry in Co Down, aim to become the specialist ‘go to’ supplier of these drinks. They have just launched the websites (www.drinknolow.co.uk and www.drinknolow.ie ) for the products and are distributing premium and craft alcohol free and low drinks throughout Ireland.

David and Jill bring vast experience in international markets to the new venture as the innovators behind Just Live a Little, a producer of granolas and other healthy snacks for major retailers worldwide.

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Influenced by the launches of alcohol-free Guinness and Gordon’s Gin options, they decided to focus on developing an extensive portfolio of craft beers, wines and other beverages produced without alcohol that can be accessed both digitally and through conventional distribution. The new business initiative has also been influenced by their own efforts to reduce alcohol consumption.

Jill, the commercial director, explains: “We spotted a new business opportunity from the development of the No/Low drinks sector as one of the fastest growing and most interesting categories in drink. While we don’t drink much alcohol we still saw scope to reduce what we do take. So, we started looking at what is available in other parts of the world.

“Like so many, we’re just trying to be a bit more mindful and healthy. For us, this means having more alcohol-free evenings and weekends and drinking slightly less when we do decide to have a few glasses of wine or beer.

“There was also only so much sugar-free cola and alcohol-free lager we could take – so we went on a bit of a mission to find the best non-alcoholic drink alternatives, to make our nights in and out more enjoyable.

“While there are a lot of fantastic new products available in a market which is really taking off in Europe, the US and Australia, the availability of these beverages here has been inhibited due to issues over trade and transport, especially post-Brexit

“We couldn’t believe what we discovered and how the market has changed in recent years – from alternatives in wine and spirits with health benefits, through to delicious cocktails and superb beers – all tasting as good as, if not much better than, their alcoholic alternatives.

“We saw significant scope in particular to help accelerate the growth of the so-called clean drinks category in Ireland. Many producers either don’t ship their products here – or the shipping costs and bureaucracy post-Brexit make the costs prohibitive,” Jill adds.

 Brexit and the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol, however, enabled the new company to operate a business to consumer operation in Northern Ireland on an all-Ireland basis – without trade barriers. Post Brexit UK/Republic of Ireland trade was now more difficult for companies based in the Republic to import product from the UK.

Research, Jill continues, indicated that global sales of no/low alcohol drinks were projected to rise by 31 percent in volume by the end of 2024. This compared with an expected decline in alcohol consumption.

Another survey found that 24 percent of drinkers in Britain were keen to cut back on booze including 31 percent in the 18-24 age bracket – dubbed ‘Generation Sensible’ by market experts. “Another important indicator is research showing that 6.5 million people in the UK took part in ‘Dry January’ in 2021- up from three million in 2018. And 20 percent of people in the UK described themselves as ‘tee total’, she adds. And around seven out of 10 were said to be ‘sober curious’.

Drink No/Low, Jill explains, was created as “a one stop shop for all drinks non-alcoholic”. 

“Our new business is all about supplying people and traders here and in the Republic of Ireland the very best beverages that the No/Lo category has to offer and at affordable prices that offer great value for money,” she adds.

The new Northern Ireland company has already tied up with many of the world’s leading producers of no/low beverages in key sectors such as craft beers, beer and cider, spirits, cocktails and wine. They include UNLTD Beer, Pentire Spirits, NLL New London Light, Wild Life Botanicals, Loah Beer, Highball Cocktails and Thomson & Scott Noughty wines.

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