United Wines reports increase in ‘no alcohol’ drinks sales in NI

Dry January may be over but in Northern Ireland, the trend for ‘no and low alcohol’ products is set to continue growing as more and more people look to cut down their alcohol intake in 2022.

David Greenlees and Gemma Herdman of United Wines
David Greenlees and Gemma Herdman of United Wines

Dry January may be over but in Northern Ireland, the trend for ‘no and low alcohol’ products is set to continue growing as more and more people look to cut down their alcohol intake in 2022.

According to Craigavon-based drinks distributor United Wines, the non-alcohol category is going from strength to strength as Northern Ireland becomes more health-conscious and consumers adopt a ‘mindful drinking’ approach.

Recent research shows that almost half (49%) of UK adults either don’t drink any alcohol or are planning to cut down soon, which is reflected in sales with Nielsen data showing that the ‘no and low alcohol’ category has grown an impressive 506% in the past six years.

These figures are consistent with Northern Ireland sales experienced by United Wines which distributes a wide range of beers, wines and spirits to more than 1,000 bars, restaurants, hotels, off licenses, cash & carries, regional wholesalers and national multiples on the island of Ireland.

One brand that has certainly seen the impact of the shift towards ‘mindful drinking’ is McGuigan Zero, the number one branded No Alcohol Still Wine in the UK which is available in a choice of five non-alcoholic wines, including a Shiraz, Chardonnay, Sparkling, Rosé and Sauvignon Blanc.

By using the latest spinning cone technology and working at low temperatures to gently remove alcohol after the fermentation process, McGuigan has created a high-quality no-alcohol wine that maintains its delicate fruit flavours.

What’s more, a glass of McGuigan Zero has typically a quarter of the calories of its alcoholic counterpart, and significantly less calories than a standard soft drink.

United Wines has been working with the McGuigan brand since 2008, supplying more than 2.5 million cases into the Northern Ireland marketplace during this time.

Indeed, Northern Ireland is now, per capita, the largest market on the world for sales of McGuigan Black Label.

Highlighting how the Covid-19 pandemic has placed health and wellness high on the agenda of the Northern Ireland community, United Wines managing director Martin McAuley, said the ‘no and low alcohol sector is thriving’.

He continued: “As McGuigan’s dedicated agent in Northern Ireland, we’ve enjoyed a long-standing partnership with the brand and its market leading products.

“There is no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic has placed health and wellness very much in the forefront of consumers’ minds, and the desire to cut down alcohol intake is at an all-time high right now.

“The no and low alcohol sector is thriving and McGuigan is leading the way in the wine category with its McGuigan Zero range, which has enjoyed year on year growth of 249% in Northern Ireland with widespread distribution across more than 500 stores.

“The McGuigan brand has become synonymous with innovation.

“They spotted the trend for no and low alcohol products very early and created McGuigan Zero using the latest wine-making technology to remove the majority of the alcohol without impacting on the taste.”

Beyond a need for health and wellness, the way in which Northern Ireland consumers spend their time has led to a change in drinking behaviours.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, more people are opting for a ‘night in’ but are still looking for an adult drink that provides the same experience that comes with drinking alcohol, such as a high quality, no-alcohol wine that can be paired with food or enjoyed leisurely.

Outlining how local businesses, supermarkets and shops are helping the Zero Zone category to grow, Martin added: “No and low alcohol drinks are here to stay.

“Working in tandem with our parent company Heineken has allowed us to grow a category that is of great interest to the Northern Ireland consumer. Enter most shops now and you will find a Zero Zone or shelving dedicated to no alcohol wine, beers and spirits.

“We are proud to be able to offer that choice to our consumers and retailers alike.”

United Wines was founded in 1985 and is headquartered in Craigavon with a 75,000 square foot warehouse and 6,000 square foot office.

The company employs 50 people on the island of Ireland and boasts an extensive portfolio of products, including wine, beer, spirits and soft drinks.

In 2011, the company was acquired by parent company Heineken and has since experienced significant growth.

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