Why Guinness 0.0, Heineken 0.0 and other zero alcohol options are now on the lips of many Northern Irish drinkers

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The growing demand for zero and low alcohol drinks across Northern Ireland shows no sign of slowing down after ‘dry January’ according to drinks industry leaders.

The end of 2024’s first month certainly marks a milestone for those who took part in the annual alcohol-free challenge.

And while some may return to their old pre-January habits, it seems that more and more people are likely to continue to choose zero and low alcohol options.

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Andrew Hollywood, marketing manager of Craigavon-based United Wines, a subsidiary of Heineken Ireland, and one of the biggest drinks distributors on the island of Ireland, agreed there has been a change in consumer mindset in various ways.

United Wines launched a designated driver campaign in the run-up to Christmas 2023 to support safe and responsible driving over the festive season. The company rewarded designated drivers with a free Heineken®0.0 or Birra Moretti Zero when they made themselves known to bar staff by showing their car keys at participating venues.  Pictured are Gemma Herdman and Maura Bradshaw of United Wines, enjoying a bottle of no alcohol beer at The Morning Star bar in Belfast’s city centre.  Picture: Phil Magowan / Press EyeUnited Wines launched a designated driver campaign in the run-up to Christmas 2023 to support safe and responsible driving over the festive season. The company rewarded designated drivers with a free Heineken®0.0 or Birra Moretti Zero when they made themselves known to bar staff by showing their car keys at participating venues.  Pictured are Gemma Herdman and Maura Bradshaw of United Wines, enjoying a bottle of no alcohol beer at The Morning Star bar in Belfast’s city centre.  Picture: Phil Magowan / Press Eye
United Wines launched a designated driver campaign in the run-up to Christmas 2023 to support safe and responsible driving over the festive season. The company rewarded designated drivers with a free Heineken®0.0 or Birra Moretti Zero when they made themselves known to bar staff by showing their car keys at participating venues. Pictured are Gemma Herdman and Maura Bradshaw of United Wines, enjoying a bottle of no alcohol beer at The Morning Star bar in Belfast’s city centre. Picture: Phil Magowan / Press Eye

"Consumers are more mindful, more health conscious and ultimately more educated on moderation and its importance, and whilst that’s their reasoning for not consuming alcohol, their choice to consume low and no over soft drinks is largely because of the social acceptance. The stigma around not drinking has been eradicated.

"No and low also offer consumers a sense of inclusion in the festivities without the headache.”

Likewise, global drinks giant Diageo – employers of 320 people across three sites in Northern Ireland, including the Baileys global supply facility at Mallusk that produces over 60 million bottles of Bailey’s per year, exporting to over 150 markets worldwide – says it has also witnessed a significant growth in the zero and low alcohol sector.

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"Non-alcoholic options create an inclusive culture and vibrant hospitality sector for those who choose not to drink or those that are moderating,” said a Diageo spokesperson.

Guinness 0.0 is one of Diageo's biggest innovations and the company's largest non-alcohol brand. Picture: DiageoGuinness 0.0 is one of Diageo's biggest innovations and the company's largest non-alcohol brand. Picture: Diageo
Guinness 0.0 is one of Diageo's biggest innovations and the company's largest non-alcohol brand. Picture: Diageo

“It is one of the fastest growing areas of the industry, with changes in consumer behaviour seeing increased choice, innovation, improved taste and quality, and it provides people with the atmosphere and sociability of the pub without any of the alcohol.”

Andrew Hollywood outlined what United Wines’ experience has been in relation to the huge growth of the zero and low alcohol sector and in particular, of their most popular products Heineken 0.0 and McGuigan Zero.

"The younger demographic are driving this category, those in the 18 to 34 age bracket,” he said. "Also around 50 per cent of consumers are actively seeking to moderate their alcohol intake and 10 per cent looking to abstain entirely, all of which has driven the incredible development and growth of the sector is such a short time frame.

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"The technological development in such a short space of time has been immense. Heineken® 0.0 is double brewed with natural ingredients, which are the same as the ones used for Heineken® Original (water, barley malt, hop extract, and Heineken® A-yeast).

"We gently remove the alcohol with vacuum distillation and blend the brew to perfection with natural flavourings, thus giving all the Heineken® Original taste cues without the alcohol.

"Likewise, this is true of 0% wine, which is much more difficult to produce. Pioneered by Australia Vintage, they use a Spinning Cone technology to gently remove the alcohol from wine. The two key features of the Spinning Cone Column is the centrifugal force generated by the unique spinning cones and the vacuum the column is under. The vacuum ensures they can undertake the extraction process at low temperature. The centrifugal force and unique spinning cone process ensures the steam and wine interface in the column occurs when there is a thin layer of wine present and therefore, less energy is required on the wine to remove the alcohol.

"These features are key to gentle extraction of alcohol and the retention of delicate varietal flavours and aromas in their McGuigan Zero wines.”

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Mr Hollywood said Heineken 0.0 and McGuigan Zero have also been able to break through into the non-licenced grocery stores, highlighting their appeal.

United Wines are also agents for McGuigan Zero and Freixenet 0.0, two of the UK and Irelands leading wine brands, which are helping shape the category and how consumers shop.

Diageo reported the biggest grouping of non-alcoholic drinkers to be those that are moderating their consumption, accounting for the vast majority of the market.

"Non-alcoholic consumers are more likely to be male (65 per cent), with the 35-54 year olds being the largest consumers at 39 per cent, followed by 18-24 year olds at 34 per cent, and then those aged 55+ at 28 per cent,” said a company spokesperson.

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“At Diageo we are focused on delivering taste and quality because we want to make sure that consumers don’t feel like they are making a compromise. Through investment and innovation we have consistently provided greater choice and quality across our product portfolio.”

Diageo’s non-alcohol brands include Guinness 0.0., Carlsberg 0.0, Tanqueray 0.0, Gordon’s 0.0, Captain Morgan 0.0 and Seedlip.

"Guinness 0.0 is one of our biggest innovations and Diageo’s biggest non-alcohol brand. We have big ambitions for its growth, which is why we are investing heavily in the product.

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"To create Guinness 0.0 the St James’s Gate brewers start by brewing Guinness exactly as they always have, using the same natural ingredients; water, barley, hops, and yeast; before gently removing the alcohol through a cold filtration method, which is an additional step in the process,” said the spokesperson.

"Our teams have worked hard to increase the availability of Guinness 0.0 on draught, which is now available in more than 1,000 outlets – and growing – across the island of Ireland.”

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