The global trend towards moderate drinking is leading new opportunities to the no and low alcohol market in China, backed by the country’s strong purchasing power of ‘she economy’ and young drinkers.
While the closure of bars and restaurants during the pandemic brought challenges to the alcoholic drink industry around the world, various researches found the consumer demand for no- and low-alcohol drinks including beer, wine, spirits, and ready-to-drink (RTD) products is prevailing.
IWSR research shows no- or low-alcohol consumption has seen a slight volume consumption increase in 10 countries – including the United States, Germany, Japan and Brazil – of around 1% in 2020 and is forecast to grow by 31% in 2024. The United States is currently the most dynamic market registering over 30% increase in volume consumption.
Similarly, no- or low-alcohol beverages are capturing young and female consumers in China. The term “light and trendy drinks” is often used to describe alcoholic drinks with a low alcohol level. They come with stylish labels, wide-ranging flavours, ready-to-drink packaging, sometimes referred to as ‘tipsy drink’ or ‘female beverage’.
According to statistics from the largest Chinese online retailer Tmall and Taobao, 2,449 liquor brands reached a sales growth of above 100% in the first quarter of 2021, of which 1,415 are low alcohol brands, accounting for 57.8%.
A 2020 report from Tmall recorded a smashing sales increase of 90% in plum wine and 50% increase in both pre-mixed cocktails and fruit wines, dated to November last year. Local alcoholic beverage giants like Moutai, Wuliangye and Luzhou Laojiao have also released their own low-alcohol products to capitalize on the trend.
Female consumers and youngsters aged 18 to 34 years old, including Gen Z, are the main driving force behind the surging trend.
A report released by NetEase at the end of April shows light drinking is the favorite drinking style of the young generation accounting for more than 80%, of which over 59% like to acquire a slightly tipsy feeling through drinking. The 2021 Spring Festival report released by Alibaba shows the sales volume of fruit wine has doubled from the previous year, which nearly 70% are driven by female buyers.
One of the main reasons giving rise to no or low alcohol drink is the association with health and well-being. A study from Wine Intelligence published in October showed consumers around the globe are cutting alcohol intake for reasons including calorie reduction, feeling better the next day, avoiding the stress of social awkwardness or pursuing a purer lifestyle.
Likewise in China, youngsters and female drinkers hope to enjoy a tipsy feeling from drinking with less burden on health. The low-sugar, low-fat and mild level of alcohol featured in no- or low-alcohol drinks thus become an attractive option for them to relax with a healthier lifestyle.
The uprising ‘she economy’ in China is another drive behind no- and low-alcohol. A report published by Accenture showed the female population aged 30 to 55 in China reached 278 million. Equipped with strong purchasing power, this group of female consumers are willing to invest in high quality products for personal enjoyment and better living standards.
To tap into this powerful consumer group, no- and low-alcohol beverage brands have turned to new marketing strategies. They turned to exquisite packaging and sweeter taste, making alcoholic drinks more approachable for female consumers to consume alone, enjoy with a small group of friends and share on social media.
One of the most iconic and successful low-alcohol drink marketing campaigns is Rio wine’s low alcohol ‘Weixun’ series. The commercials featured Chinese actress Zhou Dongyu enjoying the drink alone in various scenes, capturing modern female consumers’ desire to pursue well-being independently.
On the other hand, youngsters, especially Gen Z, are looking for unique, independent and carefree lifestyles. Unlike stronger alcohol drinks like baijiu and wine that are typically consumed in formal occasions, low alcohol brands capture their emotional needs by marketing drinks to be enjoyed at home alone with less social pressure.
The creative packaging and crossover with other merchandise also satisfies their desire to pursue fashionable trends. One of the oldest Chinese liquor brands Luzhou Laojiao’s collaboration with tea chain Cha Bai Dao to launch a Baijiu-milk tea beverage last year shows how the industry is pivoting to attract young and health-conscious consumers.
On top of those, these ‘light and trendy drinks’ come with various flavours and brands are easily accessible online. Here are some examples of the popular low-alcohol beverages in China that can be purchased from the country’s top e-commerce website.
Scroll through the pages below to view them all.