Interview with Jack Hibberd – Commercial Director Low/No Alcohol at Proof Drinks.

7th June 2021

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The hospitality industry in the UK has seen exponential growth in the low/no sector in recent years. Since Jack Hibberd took the reins in February 2020 as Commercial Director of Low/No we wanted to catch up with him to find out his passion for the category, why he has chosen the brands in the Proof Drinks portfolio and where he see’s this category in the coming years.

What makes you passionate about the No & Low category?

I am passionate about making the experience for non-drinkers as rich as that for drinkers. I have the same love of flavour as I’ve always had, but I now like to enjoy that flavour without alcohol.  I decided to stop drinking a number of years ago and never really looked back. At the time the category was in its infancy and it was hard to find really exciting products, but as more and more started to become available I became excited. I suppose you could say I became an evangelist for the category and I loved to support those venues that were doing it right.  At the time I was working in the beer trade but I knew I had to move into No & Low as it was – and still is – such an exciting place to work.

What do you see being the main drivers for No & Low  in 2021?

This is two-fold, a bit of push and a bit of pull. More and more people are giving up drinking, or taking a regular break from drinking, as they realise the health benefits (both physical and mental) not drinking can bring. This is a trend that has only been accelerated by the pandemic.  Demographically, as well, the younger generation is much less alcohol-focused than older ones. Around 25% of under 25s don’t drink, for example. And all these people still want to go out, they still want to have fun, and they want to be treated with respect. They want to be offered delicious characterful drinks with a story, with provenance and that are fun to drink and enjoy. This growing consumer base is the push. On the other side, the quality and variety of No & Low products available now is amazing. Be that low alcohol beers, alcohol free wines and spirits or adult soft drinks. Consumers know they can go to a bar and restaurant and have a similar experience to that they used to have, just without the alcohol. They can drink wine, beer or G&T and take a full part in the event, without feeling like they are missing out. It is also much more socially acceptable not to drink at a social occasion. This is pulling more and more people into the category.

Can you discuss the brands in the Proof Drinks portfolio at the moment and why you choose them?

I wanted Proof to have the best No & Low products available in every drinks category and we are well on our way to achieving that. In spirits we have Lyre’s, the most awarded and extensive non-alcoholic spirits range in the world. In beer we have Hop & Hemp CBD and Pistonhead Alcohol Free Flat Tire. Hop & Hemp is not just non-alcoholic, but actively does you good as you drink it. It’s perfect as a post-recovery drink, on a night out or simply as a treat at the end of the day. Pistonhead is simply the best tasting non-alcoholic craft lager in the category and the market leader on Amazon with hundreds of 5* reviews. In wine we are excited to launch Oddbird this year. I am so excited about this product as it so delicious and raises the bar in terms of quality and price point for the whole category. We also have Scavi & Ray Spumante which is widely seen as one of the finest sparkling wines in No & Low. The final favourite of mine is Pimento, our crazily delicious chilli and ginger tonic. It’s about as adult as a soft drink can be and definitely not one for kids.

How important is the No & Low category for the on-trade?

It’s already extremely important and is becoming ever more so. Customers who don’t want to drink alcohol when out simply won’t put up with being served boring soft drinks anymore. The era of treating non-drinkers as second-class citizens in hospitality venues is over. And this is a great opportunity. So much money has been left in people’s wallets over the years, because there simply wasn’t something exciting or delicious to purchase. One in three visits to a hospitality venue in 2019 did not involve alcohol. If you don’t cater for those people you aren’t really doing your job. Everyone should feel welcome and valued. And you do that by making the experience one that is memorable, with the right products available to be enjoyed.

For any more information about low/no brands or if you are a venue and need help creating a low/no menu please contact us here and we will be in touch.