Shandy is poised for a revival as the trend for no- or low-alcohol beer drinking driven by younger people is helping to fuel a thirst for craft versions of the traditional tipple.
Supermarket sales of so called “nolo” beer, wine and spirits have surged 50% over the past year to exceed £200m for the first time as more young people go teetotal and established drinkers look to cut back.
Beer start-ups are turning their hand to making good nolo beers and even giving 70s favourite shandy a fresh spin. Next month Sainsbury’s will start selling the craft brand Shandy Shack in all its stores. At £1.80-a-go the cans of “elderflower lager top” promise a “punchy pilsner lager with a splash of crisp elderflower pressé” and have a 2.5% alcohol by volume (abv).
Ed Stapleton, co-founder of Oxford-based Shandy Shack, said the company wanted shandy to reclaim its “rightful place as the country’s favourite low-alcohol drink”. The trend towards alcohol moderation has “greatly accelerated” during the pandemic, he said, adding: “The moderation movement represents an important, progressive consumer shift that is here to stay.”
Over the past decade what was a struggling beer market has been reinvigorated by the craft revolution as hundreds of micro-breweries selling niche local beers opened. The shake up has seen Britons fall back in love with beer, with the number of UK consumers drinking beer up from 40% in 2018 to 48% in 2019, according to The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA), and more women choosing to drink it regularly.
SIBA said about 8% of its members, including the likes of Big Drop Brewing, Nirvana and Good Karma, were involved in the fast-growing area of the market.
“These super low alcohol options – equivalent in alcohol content to a ripe banana – can only be a good thing and allow people who are looking to cut down their alcohol intake to enjoy great tasting drinks,” said SIBA spokesman Neil Walker.
Tesco has teamed up with cult Manchester brewer Cloudwater to sell a four-pack that contains three regular and one alcohol-free beer for the first time. The move by the UK’s biggest supermarket chain follows a 40% increase in sales of nolo beers over the past two years.
Luke O’Connor, Tesco’s craft beer buyer, said the quality of nolo beers had improved as craft brewers got involved. The mixed pack, which costs £10, would be popular with households “where one member is abstaining from alcohol or those who fancy a midweek beer but don’t want to drink alcohol”, he suggested.