Tesco, the UK’s largest grocer, has predicted a “record” Christmas for sales of low- and no-alcohol products.

The retailer made its forecast after seeing its “strongest-ever sales” in the fledgling category so far in 2023.

Tesco said demand for low- and no-alcohol beer has risen by more than 20% to date this year, without providing detailed figures.

Sales of low- and no-alcohol wine at the retailer were up by nearly 15% and alternatives to spirits saw sales grow by nearly 10%, it added.

“A few years ago no-and-low alcohol drinks might have been a consideration to have on hand for special occasions but, as our latest sales data, shows they’ve become mainstream and are now popular all year round,” Tesco no-and-low alcohol wine buyer Joe Olding said.

Consumer confidence in the quality of brands, health and moderation goals, alongside increased product choice and visibility were driving demand, Tesco said.

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The retailer also said that demand for low-and-no products was 25% higher during the first three weeks of June this year than in the first three weeks of Dry January last year.

Low-and-no alcohol alternatives make up a small percentage of the markets for conventional beer, spirits and wine. However, corporate interest in the nascent category is rising. In September, Pernod Ricard invested in US-based non-alcoholic beverage retailer Boisson, as part of a $5m bridge round.

Many of the major names in beverage-alcohol are expanding their ranges of low-and-no alcohol products. Diageo, for example, has been steadily adding 0% variants to its beer and spirits roster. That count is now up to four: Gordon’s, Tanqueray, Guinness and Captain Morgan. The company also owns the specialist spirit-alternative brand Seedlip.

In an October interview with Just Drinks, Asahi Group Holdings global CEO Atsushi Katsuki said the Peroni owner wants at least 15% of its sales to be from “non- and low-alcohol” products by 2025.

The company has a separate target for its Asahi Europe & International division, which sells specialist alcohol-free brews like Czech brand Birell alongside brand extensions such as Peroni Nastro Azzurro 0.0%. Asahi wants 20% of that division’s portfolio to be made up of non-alcoholic products by 2030 and is investing in marketing and product development to try to grow sales.

At present, almost all the non-alc products in the Europe & International portfolio are non-alcoholic beer but Asahi’s target has a wider definition. The company describes non-alcoholic as “adult non-alcoholic beverages that are linked to our core competencies” of brewed and fermented drinks.

Speaking to Just Drinks in November, Rob Fink, founder of UK specialist Big Drop Brewing Co., said getting on draught was “essential” to growing the low-and-no beer market in the UK.

He said: “Alcohol-free beer is succeeding because it’s easy for people to incorporate into their consumption habits.

“That’s why I think that alcohol-free on draught is so essential to continuing to drive and even exponentially increasing consumer appetite for it. We all know how important the British pub is to our national culture and the pint as an institution. If you could have a pint of great tasting beer that happens to be alcohol-free I think that’s just a whole new gateway – an opening up of the market.”

Tesco’s Olding added: “Based on the huge demand throughout the year we are anticipating this festive season to not only be bigger than Dry January just gone but to be the biggest Christmas ever for no-and-low drinks.”