No & Low: Accelerating advances and uncovering opportunities with consumers

Having redefined the beverage landscape, the success of no & low means manufacturers are impatiently asking “what next?”. Removing all or most alcoholic content means there is no way to go even lower, so, taking its cue from the trend in other categories, we have noticed a shift towards adding ingredients in – in the form of functionally focused benefits.

We wanted to put two of the latest developments to the test. First, Corona Sunbrew. Launched this year in Canada, Corona Sunbrew has added Vitamin D in its 0,0% recipe. Second, UK-based craft beer Lion’s Mane IPA by Fungtn, advertising the inclusion of adaptogenic Lion’s Mane mushrooms.

In order to assess their relative merits - and hear directly from consumers what they want and expect from such products - we ran a Concept Accelerator test in the US (where neither product is currently available).

Consumers saw both brands’ concepts and were asked to rank and review them. An initial smaller group gave their instinctive video responses, followed by a second larger group, who gave their own opinions and evaluated which video feedback most resonated with them.

Corona Sunbrew was considered to make the most of its brand equity, keeping the same familiar colorway and bottle shape as its regular alcohol product. This immediate recognition aided comprehension and allowed the focus of attention to fall on the Vitamin D. The vitamin was well recognized and its implied health benefits understood - helped through the subtle reinforcement through the “Sunbrew” name. This easy-to-explain ingredient meant there was a fair split of attention between the vitamin and the overall no-alcohol positioning.

Consumer video, however, identified a balancing act between that familiar brand heritage and avoiding at-shelf confusion with regular alcohol – reinforcing a key consideration for shelf placement instore.

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The Fungtn concept, by contrast, stood out, but led to more consumer questions. As expected from a small brand without a foothold in the market, it lacked the benefit of a long-established brand positioning. It was felt that the dark-colored bottle and claims to an earthy, mushroom-based IPA were well aligned.

However, consumers were more hesitant around what the proposition was offering overall, its Fungtn name leading to some uncertainty over pronunciation, and less intuitive understanding of the link between Fungtn, fungi (mushroom) and the implied functional benefit of the adaptogenic ingredient, likely not aided by a corresponding lack of familiarity in Lion’s Mane mushroom. With the core benefit somewhat lost on consumers, a lot more attention was paid to the expectation of an IPA made from mushroom, with clear alignment across consumers that the product would be an earthy, dark flavor – in itself polarizing.

Whilst brand building is naturally no walk in the park, the Accelerator identified potential optimization via finding a simpler, more explicit “hook” for consumers - and suggests that explicitly communicating the benefits and making clear the link between name, ingredient and benefit would strengthen the proposition further.

Overall, there is clear guidance for any no & low product looking to further evolve its offering. No matter the positioning, choosing the right ingredient is key! Those which are well entrenched in consumers’ minds (such as the more common vitamins and minerals) can afford to rely more on their implied health benefits, with subtle reinforcing cues such as naming, visuals, and so on, leading to a stronger consumer understanding of the proposition as a whole.

Those which are less well-known still generate curiosity and grab attention but have to work harder to drive action based on that initial curiosity. With this level of interest and a host of opportunities, the future of no & low looks bright!

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