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Smart Consumer: I can't believe it's not alcohol!


John McGrath, Keelin
McNamara and Tina Leonard sample
a tipple. Photo by Martin Maher

John McGrath, Keelin McNamara and Tina Leonard sample a tipple. Photo by Martin Maher

John McGrath, Keelin McNamara and Tina Leonard sample a tipple. Photo by Martin Maher

There you are, a bottle of beer in hand, a comfy armchair and sports on the telly. That's all well and good, but it is January -- so isn't it time to put those New Year's good intentions into practice?

If cutting out the beer sounds too much, you may take comfort in the fact that Bavarian brewery Erdinger is promoting one of their beers as the latest sport drink for athletes.

Yes, you can go for a run and then reward yourself with a beer afterwards. It is isotonic, vitamin rich, low calorie and has "natural regenerative powers that help athletes recover from a workout."

Okay, it's also alcohol-free: well, it contains just 0.5pc alcohol so certainly isn't going to dehydrate you or get you drunk.

Erdinger Alkohol Frei comes with the slogan "100pc effort. 100pc regeneration", and it's being promoted at sporting events.

The marketing of sports and beer together is some idea, but there are plenty of other reasons why you might not want to drink alcohol.

"Changes in drink-driving laws and a move to focusing more on health mean that while the non-alcohol beer market is very young, it's a market with potential for growth," according to Stephen Lynham, Senior Executive at the Irish Brewers Association.

Lynham says we're far behind Australia where almost a quarter of the beer market is made up of non-alcohol beer and also in Spain where they have spearheaded campaigns relating to non-alcoholic beer.

Nonetheless, January is the month for starting anew and Garret Connolly, the owner of Baggot Street Wines, reports that already this January he has more customers asking questions about alcohol-free alternatives.

In fact, he says that the shop's alcohol-free beer sells consistently all year, although there is little awareness of the availability of non-alcoholic wine.

Two types are stocked in Baggot Street Wines -- a German and Spanish -- but Connolly admits that "there isn't a huge supply and some of the alcohol-free wine isn't great."

But for many, the whole idea of laying off the booze does not mean getting the taste of beer or wine without the alcohol kick, but rather getting a different taste altogether. And here's where soft drink alternatives come in.

A report from ShelfLife magazine in conjunction with FMI published last year, found Coca Cola to be the best-selling soft drink with a whopping 96pc of that market.

C oca Cola also remained the No 1 Irish brand across all categories in 2011 for the seventh year running, according to the Checkout Top 100 Brands report. But Coke isn't the only drink around.

Fionnuala Carolan, Editor of ShelfLife, says: "There has been considerable innovation in the soft drinks market over the past year with brands using the health credentials of the product and nostalgia as unique selling points."

Eighties favourite, the Scottish carbonated soft drink Irn Bru, is back with a vengeance, marketing-wise, as is Irish brand Vit Hit. Shloer is producing different flavours targeting different seasons, such as the Berry Punch for the Christmas market.

Vimto, created over 100 years ago was re-launched in Ireland in 2011, and while originally made as a cordial is now available as a fizzy or still drink.

Industry expert Emma Hunt, marketing Manager for Vimto Soft Drinks, says: "Soft drinks are a huge market and there will also be demand as long as brands offer great tasting and relevant products at a good price."

Vimto is marketed at teenagers, but focusing on the adult female market is Appletiser. Made from 100pc fruit juice with added fizz, Denise Farrell, Brand Manager at Appletiser, says that the drink counts as one of your five-a-day.

Of course, there is always water, but with the expanding choice in soft-drink alternatives, if you're going dry this January, which tipple will you choose?

Irish Independent