Halal on the high street
When it comes to restaurants, supermarkets and products in the U.K. there is definitely a shift occurring. Some have been ahead of the curve but silently so, such as Tesco, who have been selling halal products since the end of the 90s and who even sell un-stunned meat. While others offer halal in a specialist way, like Ocado, which has an online halal store or Asda, which has opened Haji Baba Halal butcher meat stands in a number of outlets. All the major supermarkets and restaurant chains have statements on their provision of halal meat, but most qualify whether this includes stunned or un-stunned meat. McDonalds, Costa and Pret do not serve halal meat at all, while Subway, Pizza Express and KFC have halal only branches.
How halal can you go?
Not surprisingly, restaurants that provide authentic food from the Middle East, like Comptoir Libanais and Shawa, also provide meat that comes from approved and certified halal suppliers. Founder Tony Kitous says, “We are proud to provide halal meat, so that our chefs feel at home and our guests can experience real, wholesome, healthy and delicious food. The kind of food I had when I was growing up!” Comptoir Libanais does serve alcohol, which some Muslims do not drink, but this is in keeping with Tony’s mission to make food from the Middle East as popular as Italian food. He is trying to bring people together through food, but also drink!
Restaurants like Meat & Shake, however, are responding to the demand in their communities (Tooting, Ealing and Watford), by catering to a stricter halal diet. As The London Haloodie, says “ I LOVE that there is no alcohol on the menu and that Meat & Shake are so openly halal.” Haloodie refers to a foodie who happens to follow a halal diet and this particular haloodie is part of a growing number of halal bloggers who are helping Generation M find their halal food.
Hold up, what is Generation M?
It stands for Generation Muslim AND Millennial. With their focus on food, we reckon this demographic should at least get the nickname of Generation Mmmm, but who are we to coin a trend? As a PR agency we are more focussed on spotting them and in assessing the shifting cultural-economic landscape. Although the idea of Generation M was conceived a couple of years ago, we believe the potential impact this generation can have is more relevant than ever to the declining meat and dairy industry.
This is especially so when one considers that one-third of all Muslims are under the age of 15, and two-thirds are under 30. Generation M is therefore a huge proportion of Muslims in the U.K. and they are increasingly more vocal. Their ability to vocalise and influence have been shaped by two things…
The global response to the Muslim community post 9/11 and the internet
This is according to Shelina Janmohamed, author of Generation M: Young Muslims Changing the World. The former has galvanised religion for this generation, while the latter acts as “the glue that binds [Gen M] together and creates the critical mass that turns them into a globally influential force.”
Across the internet, haloodies can help each other out, by providing reviews, directories and even apps that let users find halal food and restaurants.
One such app is Halal Gems, which encourages users to rate as they go, like an alternative TripAdviser. Halal Gems also provides a digital magazine and houses all its content with guest features on a very swanky website, which is just as well as their focus in on fine dining. Although sites are mostly stylish affairs with polished social media profiles to match, there is a real range of halal bloggers, each catering to different sub genres.
Tell me more about these halal bloggers
On first inspection, the majority appear to be young and female haloodies, who have made use of the freedom that the internet gives them to connect with each other. Traditionally marginalised voices within the community, they have, as Janmohamed says, been “given space…to express their views.” When it comes to food they are doing so with rating systems and food imagery that is on point.
For Halal Girl About Town her reviews are like any other food blogger, except that in the rating section there is an additional pork/ alcohol question, i.e. do they serve it there.
What started for Layla Hassanali as a hobby at uni. turned into a full time job once she graduated. She puts this down to the fact that “there was no resource for halal restaurants in London at the time, so I started to journal my food adventures online and it just took off from there.”
Like many halal bloggers she was answering her own need to be catered for and this is what really defines the halal blogger and more generally, Generation M; their determination that the world should cater for their needs.
With her blog boasting over 5 million views, appearances on the BBC and features by The Observer and The Guardian, Hassanali really is influencing things. She wants to “show [her] followers that halal dining doesn’t need to be limited to stereotypical Indian or Pakistani cuisine, and can range from European to Filipino too. Things have changed quite rapidly in the last few years, with lots of restaurants now accommodating the halal consumer.”
She is right and this often means it can be difficult to know whether a halal blogger is even showcasing halal food at all, if you’re just going by instagram feeds. If it weren’t for their name or bio, or in the case of the brunching biologist, a silhouette profile pic of her hair in a hijab, you wouldn’t know. Others you would guess from their hashtags or from imagery of them in the hijab, but generally the signposting is very subtle and indicative of how Generation M “straddles different heritages and feels comfortable in all of them”.
This hybrid identity of religion and modernity that Janmohamed defines is what makes Generation M’s voice so unique and it is thanks to halal bloggers that we are able to hear them more clearly.
This voice is not just a female one though
Halal Food Guy has a very slick website with every category covered, from Halal Michelin Starred Restaurants to Where to go for Ramadan/ Iftar. One thing unites every review though: halal is always in the heading. The whole rating and sticker system is very professional and more detailed than most. It not only covers whether there is pork or alcohol, but also whether there is a mosque 10 minutes walk away or a prayer space inside.
Other popular male halal bloggers include Halal Hunt who seeks out burgers and “man food”, Steak and Teeth whose focus is made quite clear, the brilliantly named Man Vs Halal Food, who does what he says and usually wins, as well as the massive halal blogger London Foodee, whose feed is full on delectable.
However, it is not just the male bloggers who have a penchant for pow food aka burgers and all things big and beefy. Halal blogger collectives like haloodie and female halal bloggers like Halal Food London are also repping the super tasty melt your eyeballs treats. We would call them #foodporn shots, but we know that they don’t because the word is pretty immodest.
Although they mainly spread awareness of the U.K./London food scene, some halal bloggers focus on their hybrid heritage, like Makan Inda Beranti This duo proudly declare their search for great food in both London and Brunei. Whilst even halal bloggers based in Canada, such as Halal Foodie, are able to share food posts that are relevant due to their regular travels abroad.
The Eco Halal Movement
From male to female, professional to part time and from junk food to fine dining, halal bloggers are giving voice to their community. For most of their reviews of halal food, taste, presentation and halal are the defining factors, but what about the environment and animal welfare? Well, this takes us back to our earlier definition of halal.
For many Muslims, halal food & drink refers to no pork, no alcohol and meat that has had its blood drained. But as per our list in part one of this blog, which attempts to define halal, there is quite a lot of emphasis put on rearing livestock in a natural way and in killing animals with kindness. As mentioned previously, this approach is called tayyib and evidently has varying levels of observance.
The Vegan Muslim Initiative define tayyib as “pure, clean, good, wholesome and a host of positive meanings”. While this definition is vague and open to interpretation, there is clearly a belief on their part that meat and dairy consumption does not qualify. Other vegan muslim bloggers tend to agree, like One Arab Vegan.
Historically, veganism and Islam have been seen as mutually exclusive
This is keenly exemplified by the annual celebration of Eid Al Adha which involves the ritual slaughtering of over 100 million animals during a 48 hour period. More generally, many Muslims see eating meat as an integral part of everyday Islamic life. For them, because meat is mentioned in the Quran, it is therefore condoned and if there is halal certification then they are following the Quran.
But what about tayyib?
The online publication Animals In Islam argues that the lack of observance of tayyib means that truly halal meat is “largely a myth in the industrialised world”, and that “none of the conditions requiring that the dignity of the creature be respected and maintained are met in today’s world of industrial meat production”. This view certainly chimes with the concerns of modern day non-muslim consumers, who crave cruelty-free products that are also organic and sustainable.
Hence the emergence and success of Willowbrook Farm and Halal Exotic Meats. The former is based in Oxfordshire where animals roam freely and are reared organically while the latter is based in Yorkshire where they observe the highest animal welfare.
Owner of Willowbrook Farm, Lutfi Radwan, says that “Sustainability and renewability are part of the Islamic idea of ‘stewardship of the Earth’”. To deliver his halal produce “Resources must be properly respected [and] workers in primary industries must not be exploited.”
There is therefore an interesting convergence of halal with the demand for organic sustainably-sourced animal products by non-Muslim consumers. The focus or association of halal with higher welfare is perhaps why it has become increasingly popular among non-Muslims in China and Europe.
As globalisation and commercialisation have disconnected people from the source of their food, halal (tayyib) seems to reconnect them and allay their concerns. Hence the lucrative trend of halal food manufacturers catering to the trend for both religiously-permissible and organic food. Alongside this is also the trend for eco muslim bloggers like that belonging to Zaufishan Iqbal whose blog claims that “if it’s not organic, it’s not halal”.
Whether pushing for environmentally sustainable meat or for veganism, these viewpoints are clearly filtering through to the more mainstream halal bloggers, whose instagram stories and reviews are starting to cover this kind of halal food.
Halal bloggers don’t just herald in the change, they make it!
According to MuseFind, 92% of consumers are likely to trust a social media influencer over an advertisement or celebrity endorsement. And according to the Global Muslim Economy Report, social media and influencers are the top opportunity within the consumer needs ecosystem, i.e. this is the arena in which needs are most clearly and significantly expressed.
It is little wonder that businesses look to influencers for direction and to, well, influence! Many of the aforementioned halal bloggers work professionally reviewing and sharing content for a brand, because the brand is making it worth their while. But because these bloggers have honed authenticity in their blogging and generally stay true to their values, principles and aesthetic, this is mutually beneficial for all.
This system is obviously nothing new, but within the context of Generation M and the Muslim market it is certainly starting to impact the British and global F&B industry in a more noticeable way. We see how brands don’t have to be a “Muslim” to successfully connect with Generation M, but we also see how Muslim brands don’t have to be overtly muslim to appeal to non-Muslims.
In general, non-muslim businesses are waking up to the spending power of the Muslim pound while Halal Lifestyle conglomerates are starting to mimic the broad offering of those such as Nestle. Amongst this growing convergence and acceptance, the definition of halal still varies wildly, but while debate is sure to continue, one thing is for sure – haloodies really love to eat!
Food is central to many religions and cultures. Perhaps for the Muslim faith, where family togetherness is so strong and drinking is so frowned upon, this accounts for the huge importance of food; it is something everybody in the family can enjoy.
With the U.K.’s trend for drinking less and for being more sustainable it seems like the modern eco halal way of life is much closer to home than many would think. So hurrah for Gen M and halal bloggers who champion their identity and culture!
As veganism marches on, we take a little time to reflect on the biggest food trend for 2018 and how it is having an impact across the industry and in our lives.
The V Word
Veganism. What does it mean to you? For some, it’s a way of life that overhauls previous behaviours and habits in order to make some positive difference to the living world. Whether that be to your own body, the animal kingdom or the environment; it’s defined as being more conscious and responsible. For others, it signifies a tapping out of the taste game or a raising of the white flag in the crusade for good food. In short, for many it takes away from the everyday bliss that food can bring and the journey of creating great flavour. But can you have your eggless cake and eat it? Can you be a vegan gourmand?
To Foodie or Not to Foodie
To the resolutely carnivorous, it would seem you cannot. If you’re not open to eating absolutely anything; if you have chosen to prioritise the wellbeing of animals over the taste they produce, then you can no longer be deemed a “foodie”. From this viewpoint, the system of values has shifted, knocking taste off the top spot and making the term “foodie” no longer applicable to vegans. A twist on the French saying might be: foodies live to eat, vegans eat to live.
But with places such as Michelin-starred Pied à Terre doing vegan tasting menus as well as others, like Gauthier Soho, going from serving 20KG of foie gras each week to being 100% vegan within two years, there are certainly sophisticated vegan offerings out there. We are especially excited by the relatively-fresh-on-the-scene, Plates, which declares itself “a plant-based food studio and restaurant, influenced by art and inspired by nature”.
There the Executive Chef Kirk Haworth, together with his Creative Director (and sister) Keeley, are really pushing the boundaries for vegan fine dining by using Michelin-star techniques focussed solely on seasonal, organic plants. With Nigel Hawarth as a father and the restaurant being based in Hoxton (near to the JAMS office), we will have to find out for ourselves and report back in our monthly JAMSession!
With the recent announcement of the Michelin Guide for 2019 revealing a more inclusive attitude, this PR agency wonders how soon it will be before a vegan restaurant makes it onto the list. l’Arpege in Paris is the ultimate veggie-centric icon, having retained its three michelin stars since it earned them in 1996, but at the moment, it cuts quite a lonely figure. Considering how swiftly veganism has entered into the mainstream in the last two years, perhaps the Michelin judges will continue to embrace change and welcome more plant-focussed restaurants into the hallowed starry world of awards.
A meteoric rise
Veganism is an obvious trend at the moment with products and dishes popping up at an ever-increasing rate. Most recently, we have seen Domino’s announce its Vegan Supreme pizza and receive a very enthusiastic response, as well as another vegan option, which is still being trialled, but is on the way. Also recently, the national pub chain, Marston’s, became the first to put Moving Mountain’s “bleeding burgers” onto their menus, as part of a £1m deal.
These meatless burgers gain their “bleeding” status from beetroot and their umami hit from mushrooms. They have clearly received the seal of approval in the vegan community as they are now served in vegetarian stalwart, Mildred’s, as well as, newcomer to the veggie/ vegan scene, Tell Your Friends (owned by Made In Chelsea star Lucy Watson) . But will the Moving Mountains burger reign supreme for long? Or will it soon be surpassed by the much talked about impossible burger? Perhaps, if the burger ever makes it to these shores.
Designed by a small US company, it is telling that Beyond Meat has had to postpone its UK supermarket debut because it would struggle to meet demand. Now that it is receiving funding from America’s largest meat processor, Tyson Foods, it will surely be taking the impossible out of its journey, at least. Some vegans, who do not like to support meat production, may be miffed by the brand’s association with a meat producing corporation. But there is an argument that working to change from within can be very effective.
There have been some significant reductions in meat and dairy consumption recently. For instance, beef, lamb and pork are all in volume decline with chicken only growing by 0.5% this year. According to DEFRA’s National Food Survey, the sale of meat products overall has reduced by almost 7 per cent since 2012. In dairy, milk sales fell by around £240m between 2014 and 2016 in the UK. In light of this and also predictions that the global vegan cheese market will skyrocket to almost $4bn by 2024, it is not surprising that dairy giant Danone has invested $60 million in dairy-free products.
Nor is it very shocking that big retail is expanding its vegan ranges when one considers the success it has having. Online grocer Ocado enjoyed a staggering 1,678% increase in sales within its ‘vegan’ category between 2015 and 2016. While Sainsbury’s sales of its vegan cheeses surpassed the company’s predictions by 300%. More recently, Tesco’s rolled out Wicked Kitchen vegan meals at 600 stores and sold more than 2.5 million units in the first 20-week period ending in May 2018 — more than double the company’s sales projections.
Moving back to consider the restaurant industry, this time in America, a recent study has shown that 51% chefs added vegan items to their menus in 2018 and this is not because these chefs found veganism (becoming vegan does sometimes have a whiff of religious zeal about it don’t you think?), it is because doing so is profitable. The study also reveals how social media is the driver, which makes sense, as social media has a history of moving things forward as part of the counter-culture as well as being able to make big noise for a small movement.
Although veganism is certainly leaving the fringes of society and becoming more widely accepted and catered for, it must be noted that real options are only really concentrated in the cities. Also, the figures do tend to get hyped. For instance, it is often quoted that there are 3.5 million vegans in the U.K. This is not true. According to The Vegan Society, there are only 600,000 vegans in Great Britain in 2018. In other words, 1.16% of the population is vegan. It is quite impressive, therefore, how much news coverage veganism gets in the media! But this disproportionate coverage really comes down to two things.
Veganism is as veganism does
First is that the UK has an estimated 22 million “flexitarians”. Yes, the term does define people with the backbone of a jellied eel and that’s why the word is so icky. However, it is an important part of the meat/ veggie spectrum. As a gateway to veganism or simply, as a way to significantly reduce consumption of meat, fish and dairy, flexitarianism is a valid choice as well as a significant consumer. This is especially so when one considers how the youth are the main adopters. In 2017, YouGov found that 25% of millennials were either vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian, while 44% of all consumers are willing or committed to cutting out meat. With the youth mobilising through social media and testing the waters with flexitarianism, veganism is understandably making waves in the media, as many consumers crave to learn more.
The other reason comes down to the highly charged times we live in. The world is either on the precipice of nuclear war or languishing in an endless refugee crisis, but overarching all of these issues comes climate change. And with it there is a a growing awareness that, if agriculture continues at its current rate, it will be producing 52% of global greenhouse gas emissions, 70% of which will come from meat and dairy. The youth have shown themselves to be the most moved by these projections, which is why perhaps 1 in 5 of young adults believe meat will not be eaten by 2030. This statistic comes from a recent study conducted by YouGov for technology company ThoughtWorks, where young adults are classified as 18-24 year olds.
So there is a highly charged climate, environmentally and politically, but on a more a personal scale, the reason that the debates rage so furiously online and offline is because food is so essential to our identity and our social interaction. You are what you eat and when those everyday choices and rituals become something we are forced to defend, battle lines are drawn very quickly. When people do not have the ability to break bread together, discussion can get fractious and people become divided.
Note the effect of veganism on friendship groups deciding where to go for dinner, picked up by our hard-nosed journalistic team/ going about our normal lives…! On this topic it is interesting to note the President Of National Restaurant Association USA, Dawn Sweeney, who was quoted saying, “any restaurant that does not serve vegan food is burning money. Everyone knows that the vegan chooses where the group eats.” But is this true Dawn? Is it not more the case that vegans start to find more vegan friends with whom they can eat out and that omnivores have to lament the loss of a foodie partner in crime? Perhaps the vegan and the meat eater can’t be friends, perhaps veganism is tearing us apart?
Either way, there has been an increase in negative reviews reported, which highlights how vegan expectations are rising. This is according to new research by guest feedback, recovery and social reviews service Feed It Back. The 5% increase was calculated from surveying more than 400,000 consumer reviews of restaurants, quick service restaurants and pubs between January and May this year. It mainly concerns the lack of options as well as a problem with being charged the same for a dish that has had ingredients removed.
For restaurants and retail, it looks as though the small, but powerful growth for vegan products as well as the rising expectations for vegan offerings will indeed require providers to focus on innovation, variety and bespoke dishes. Luckily, some media outlets and restaurants are trying to keep the peace. Time Out is offering two people the opportunity to dine out at nine vegan-friendly restaurants with 50% off their bill. While Google, kindly removed the eggs from its salad emoji. What inclusive and progressive times we live in!
Although it must not be forgotten, that some attempts for us to all get along are seen for the marketing ploy they really are. Witness, the so bad it’s good call out from Argos, who launched the “world’s first ever vegan barbecue” this summer. It was just, as you may expect, a barbecue. We love Argos and we love how coy their justification sounds, “we took one of our most popular barbecues and re-launched it especially for the ever-growing vegan market”.
Unfortunately, barbecue season is over, but at least, Bake Off is back! And with it came the announcement that there will be a week dedicated to veganism. As the second most influential cooking show, after Jamie Oliver’s 15-Minute Meals, this really does put veganism on the mainstream map. If it’s on prime time telly it must be true! Although, research last year does show that 22% of Brits get their recipes from YouTube, 18% from TV and 62% from recipe books, which somewhat undermines TV’s power to influence our eating habits.
One lady who certainly inspires us with her vegan recipes is Kali Hamm. Via Kali Cooking and Palm Greens, Kali delivers fresh, healthy, plant based and consciously sourced food. Having recently become one of only 6% of applicants accepted into the KERB InKERBator programme, we are really proud and excited for the future of Kali Cooking and Palm Greens, especially as veganism is integrated more and more into a Londoner’s lifestyle.
You can find her vibrant salads at KERB West India Quay on Tuesdays, Granary Square, Kings Cross on Wednesdays and St Katharine’s Dock on Thursdays, as well as Broadway Vegan Market on Saturdays. She is also available for supperclubs and private events.
Check out our next two blogs where we will be exploring halal, the muslim pound, Generation M and the influence of halal bloggers.
Who drinks low ABV (Every last homie)…Fans of 90s hip hop as well as low or no-alcohol drinks will get what we’re saying here. But just in case you’re more about the hops than the hip and more likely to have died than be caught with a non-alcoholic beverage in your hand, we’ll spell it out.
Drinks with no or low ABV are becoming significantly more popular
Yes, that’s right. People are drinking drinks that have the complex taste of alcohol, but contain little to no alcohol. As unfathomable as it sounds to many people on this fair boozing isle, it is, in fact, the truth. You only have to witness the stats below and notice the dwindling number of friends propping up bars with you until 4am on a Tuesday night, for corroboration. And by the way, we’re not talking about an increase in softs or traditionally non-alcoholic drinks. We’re talking about beers, wines and so-called spirits that are alcohol free or low ABV, as well as some interesting alternatives. We’ll get to those later.
No ABV beers
According to figures from Kantar Worldpanel, the sale of non-alcoholic beers is up 58% compared to this time last year. ‘An impressive rise’ you may be thinking, ‘but what are these non-alcoholic beers you speak of?’ Well, here in the U.K. there is quite a range and they come from micro breweries and big dogs alike.
Budweiser, for instance, brought out their beautifully branded Prohibition Brew earlier this year. It turns the stereotype of Prohibition party pooper on its head by not only looking cool, but also hitting the authenticity spot. This is because the beer pays homage to Budweiser in the 1930s, when it legally continued production by switching to an alcohol free version. For the millennial generation they are targeting, this is great marketing.
AB InBev may have been pushing the global launch of Prohibition Brew recently, but they have been the biggest provider of alcohol beer for some time now via another of their brands: Becks Blue. It’s not everyone’s favourite alcohol free beer, but seeing as it accounted for 45% of that category’s supermarket sales last year, it is not to be sniffed at. “It’s almost unnatural for one brand to have that level of share” or so says Liam Newton, marketing VP at Carlsberg Group. He thinks the no-ABV market “will become as competitive in a way as the beer market is.” He’s certainly helping contribute to that prediction through the spend he’s putting behind Carlsberg’s 0.0% beer and through the already well distributed San Miguel 0.0%. We especially like the copy for the no ABV San Miguel…
AB InBev may be the world’s largest brewer with the biggest share of the no ABV beer market in the U.K., but Heineken International are investing heavily. They have stated that they will spend 25% of Heineken’s marketing budget on 0.0 in the brand’s launch year in every market. Rather than trying to be funny or focussing on taste, they are choosing to feature the calorie count in their marketing.
By including this information, of 69 calories, up front, Heineken are attracting the health-conscious consumer; health being one of the main reasons people are opting for no and low ABV drinks. But they are also clever enough to bring some light-hearted fun into the mix through their TV ads. The Now You Can campaign shows three different scenarios that demonstrate very neatly the benefits: you can drive/ be a good partner, you can get healthy/ go to the gym and you can celebrate / nail your work-life balance. The launch of the ad could not have been better timed either. Taking place during the World Cup semi-final between England and Croatia, it received a record TV audience of 26.5 million people and that’s not counting the millions more watching in pubs and outdoor screenings around the U.K.. With quality campaigns like this, it’s not hard to see why Heineken 0.0 has quickly become the fastest growing brand in the alcohol-free segment, growing 187% in the last year.
BrewDog has been steadily becoming a bigger and bigger player in the brewing industry, and its success also extends to the low ABV category. Although it launched nearly ten years ago to much taunting, Nanny State was declared the third biggest no or low ABV brand last year. From its positioning as a protest beer and its punchy original flavour, it’s easy to see why it stands out from the pack.
But there are other in the no and low ABV category that we also have our eye on. Namely Big Drop Stout, Mikkeller Energibajer and, if you want a sour-tasting beer, then we highly recommend Shrb. Brewed in Walthamstow it has the craft beer stamp all over it, but its mainly its sophisticated flavour that we love. Its recipe also came from the Prohibition era, where preserving fruits and herbs created a fragrant vinegar infusion. It certainly perks you up like a good stiff drink should! For all the lager lager lager not-shouting-because-they’re-enjoying-a-low ABV-drink-if-you-don’t-mind heads out there, we also heartily recommend the Erdinger or Fitbeer. Apart from being tasty, they are also nutritious and isotonic, i.e. they have had vitamins and electrolytes added. This makes them an ideal post-exercise beer.
Before we move onto wine and alternatives to beer…
What’s the difference between low ABV and no ABV drinks?
We’re glad you asked…so in the U.K., for a drink to be considered “low alcohol”, it has to be below 1.2%. For a drink to be considered non-alcoholic they should be less than 0.5% ABV. And to be completely alcohol-free, like the beers from the aforementioned big brewers, they have to contain less than 0.05% ABV. To de-alcoholise a drink takes a few extra steps, which is why it’s a more feasible product for the bigger brewing companies. Whether completely alcohol free or low ABV, the prevalence of these kinds of drinks are seeping out beyond just beer.
Move over Shloer…
It’s time for Eisberg to shine. Especially as the value of the non-alcoholic wine market rose by 66% last year according to Kantar. The country’s leading dry drinks brand, Eisberg, has been making alcohol free wines in the UK since the mid-1980s. Their range includes white, rosé and sparkling. Each of these is available in various selected supermarkets, from Asda to Ocado, but the one your best off sampling is the Sparkling Blanc. It is a refreshing non-alcoholic fizz alternative that is pocket friendly, at £3.99. For occasions where something a little more special is required however, we would recommend The Bees Knees. Its salmon pink hue is beautifully set off by the classy branding and sleek bottle. Made from fermented grape juice and green tea, this fizz has a tannic dryness which gives it its excellent taste. Also, at £3.50 it’s healthy for your bank balance, as well as your body!
Will the Real Kombucha please stand up?
For those who crave a non-alcoholic drink that genuinely competes with alcoholic drinks for sheer delight and depth of flavour, and which you can drink on repeat for a night out or nicely pair with food, then Real Kombucha is the one. There are many kombuchas out there, but Real Kombucha does what it says, delivering a sophisticated, refreshing drink that has no added flavours or sugars. It’s a very natural product that gains its variety (available in the three individual brews in stock) via the carefully chosen teas and brewing process, akin to those used for fine wines and craft beers.
It really is the answer to many non drinking foodies’ prayers and it is great to see how the restaurant industry has supported the product. Real Kombucha can now be found in all the best places. From Clove Club to The Pig, from Hakkasan to L’Enclume and from Hai Cenato to Nathan Outlaw, it has truly been embraced as fine dining’s favourite. With the likes of Mark Hix saying, “I love drinking it as an alternative to booze with dinner, so I’ve put it in all the restaurants” you couldn’t get a more ringing endorsement. Being a pioneering company, Borough Wines & Beers exclusively retail the product also. To find out more about this fascinating product and to read our interview with the founder, David, check out our follow up blog here.
If wine, beer or the magical kombucha (sometimes known as ‘stomach treasure’) isn’t your thing, then we recommend some of the brilliant spirit/ mixer alternatives now becoming more and more available due to the no and low ABV trend. Monte Russo is an Italian spritzer/ aperitif that gets its name from the rowan-berries and cranberries that are harvested at high altitude to make this elegant sparkling drink. Due to its zesty finish and handpicked botanicals, which are pre-blended with soda water, it achieves the flavour of a crisp and complex Venetian style bitters within a fruity, refreshing cocktail.
Soda water certainly seems to be making a comeback with the news that PepsiCo has bought SodaStream for £2.5 billion. Surely a sign that the fizzy drinks giant is shifting focus to engage with health conscious consumers who are moving away from sugary drinks and alcohol.
There certainly seems to be a small revolution going on in the Premix/RTD category with new kids on the block and new clients for this PR agency, HappyDown, going from idea to Tesco shelves in two short years. At 4% ABV they are at the lower end of ABV for a premix drink, while also containing no artificial flavours. This move away from sugary, synthetic tasting drinks towards a more natural, good-for-you craft product is being supported in the no and low ABV category. Via global companies like Diageo, who have recently managed to secure a Waitrose listing for Seedlip.
Billed as the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirit, it’s complex botanical flavour and high end branding (with high end pricing to match) means it can be found in some of the world’s best cocktail bars, michelin starred restaurants and luxury hotels. There are also cheaper premix alternatives, such as the Teetotal brand, or hybrid alternatives, like Thomas Evans, which can be served straight or mixed to make a cocktail.
The newest “so-called spirit” launched in the U.K. comes from Pernod Ricard. Called Ceder’s it describes itself as a ‘non-alcoholic alt-gin’. We like it, even if it sounds a little like a political party/ computer command. Also launched this summer, but in Ireland, is Silk Tree, which bills itself as “a distilled non-alcoholic Irish spirit with difference”. So many low ABV gin alternatives, such little time!
Probably the most hipster drink we’ve encountered for a while is Outsider. This small independent brand isn’t trying to be a spirit, but, as the name suggests, it is trying to provide a different kind of alternative. It does so by sourcing genuinely rare and hard to find ingredients (sometimes pleading distributors to use their untapped waste produce), reviving lost brewing techniques and mixing up unusual flavours…
A real range of ingredients and brewing processes go into each of its current brews and, as the product names suggest (Trial 1, Trial 2, Trial 3), they are in the throes of changing seasons and suppliers so are open to modification and discovery. On sampling the drinks, our group was wildly split between those which we loved and hated due to the very strong flavours. They certainly live up to their hype and we like their turn of phrase:
“Our beverages prove that craft and innovation do not have to be unique to alcohol. That provenance in drinks is not limited to wines and beers. And that people no longer have to sacrifice inspiration for sobriety.”
Positioning themselves for the #boldandcurious is a smart way to appeal to this new generation of non drinkers.
1 in 5 adults are now teetotal
The figures get even more interesting when you look at the demographic breakdown from the Office of National Statistics (see graph below). Basically those between 16-24 have the highest number of teetolaters at around 23% while the 25-44 age range are not far behind with 21% of their group purporting to not drink at all. These numbers are from 2017 so in all likelihood the numbers have increased by now; if one is happy to speculate based on some of the 2018 figures for no and low ABV drinks sales.
Teetotalism in the 65 and older age range has actually decreased. This has been accompanied by greater drinking in general for the middle aged (30-65), as seen in the recent reports from doctors, who are worrying about this new generation of “almost alcoholics”, i.e. people who are drinking so habitually and in such large quantities that it is a health concern even if it is not having a dysfunctional effect on their family and lifestyle etc. Despite the heavy drinking for the older generation, it does make sense for drinks brands to be preempting the shift that is occurring with the youth.
The public is famously contrarian in its behaviour, however. For instance, although sugar continues to be their number one health concern (according to Nielsen’s report this summer), the number of people who said they would continue to buy sugary soft drinks also grew post sugar tax, increasing from 31% in February to 44% in June. Perhaps the Great British public simply don’t like being told what to do!
Soft drink sales have remained flat this year, so there seems to be a disconnect between what people say they will do and what they actually do. However, it may simply be that there are more natural soft drinks coming onto the market, just as there are more natural premixes and great tasting low ABV drinks. People are finally being given a choice. As David Begg, the founder of Real Kombucha, says, “choice is often limited to alcohol or something sugary and served with a straw. It’s that behavioural change on the part of the pub and the consumer that we’re really interested in.”
Tell me more about behavioural change…
Why is this no or low ABV trend happening? Mainly driven by the 16-35 year age group (let’s call them the youth so it includes all the senior management at JAMS PR ;)), drinking less seems to be rooted in a more health and diet conscious society. Brought up on programmes like “You Are What You Eat”, government anti-drinking campaigns and image-obsessed social media influencers, it is no wonder that “the youth” want to drink less.
The social media impact is most keenly felt by Gen Z, who “don’t want a digital footprint of drunken photos to follow them as they enter the world of work.” So says Laura Willoughby, co-founder of Club Soda, a “mindful drinking movement” whose tagline “everything in moderation, except flavour” excellently sums up this shift in priorities. With 1000 more signs up this month and festivals in London and Glasgow, their message is obviously hitting home for a lot of people.
Gen X may be more inclined to drink low ABV due to social media and their lower spending power, but the millennials are becoming moderate for slightly different reasons. Willoughby points out that this generation are seeing alcohol is their coping mechanism and that the only way to improve mental health and get more out of life is by becoming more moderate. As Gen Z and the millennials share their changing attitudes and values online, alongside celebrity endorsements, the notion of drinking less is becoming more accepted.
Maybe we are reaching that point in society where ‘going for a drink’ means just that, i.e. going for ‘a’ drink. Not an alcoholic drink, just ‘a’ drink. And maybe when someone uses those immortal words to their non-drinking friend next time, that friend won’t have to qualify their visit to the pub with “yeah, ok, but just a soft drink for me.”
In light of Stoptober coming around the corner and next week’s 7th Annual Innovation in Non-Alcoholic Beverages Congress, will you try being more moderate? One of our favourite phrases is “everything in moderation including moderation”, but we would love to hear from you in our comment section below.
Welcome to our first JAMSession…
A weekly review of a restaurant, product or event that we enjoyed; from the food, drink and lifestyle sector; laid out like an interview.
Kerb London (changes weekly – see FB)
Broadway Market (Saturdays)
Find out more here…
Why did you go?
We were doing lifestyle PR and social media for Festibowl so naturally we had to try everything on the menu!
What did you try first?
Had to be the Truffle Burger.
Did it deliver?
Hoh yeah and then some. First of all it’s big, so the portion does not disappoint and you have all the ingredients bursting out, so it’s very visually pleasing and appetising. Second, all those ingredients mingle together rather well. We particularly liked the fig jam with the raclette cheese and the crispy shallots. The size and splendour does also make it very grammable.
What else on the menu did you like?
The truffle chips did the job nicely! Parmesan and generous shavings of truffle over crispy, yet fluffy chips helped us stay fuelled, but we would like to try them with their gravy next time, which you can do at their other market stalls.
Anything else that could be improved?
Our resident freelancer vegan was a bit miffed about there only being vegetarian options on site, but said that breaking the veganism was a guilty pleasure as the mushroom risotto was filled with a decent amount of mushrooms with great seasoning and of course it was very creamy! (Naughty freelancer vegan!)
What kind of lifestyle does Truffle London food suit?
The kind of lifestyle where you enjoy a drink or two, as the chips and burger are great portion sizes for soaking up all sorts! Also the umami flavour you find in truffles is great when drinking or for the next day! Their food also suits those who simply love the finer flavours in life and who like to keep things balanced, as they do Hanger Steak, Truffle Mash & Salad as well as Crispy Beef Shin Nuggets & Salad. Mmmm.
Get stuck into our next JAMsession. Coming soon.
Like strawberries and cream, bacon and eggs or gin and tonic; Quandoo and Instagram make for a natural pairing. The latter is a photo sharing app that functions as the ultimate food porn hub and the former is a restaurant reservation platform that operates globally.
Quandoo may not be particularly prolific in the U.K. yet, but with a worldwide offering in play and this newly announced Instagram partnership, it should become significantly more visible in a U.K. foodie’s daily life very soon and shake things up in the hospitality industry.
Wherever a country has restaurants using Quandoo and Instagram (with business profiles only), the functionality is available. All users have to do is tap a ‘Reserve’ button on the restaurant’s profile and a booking will be made. Like all great new developments, we don’t know why it hasn’t happened sooner and we can’t wait to try it out! For the time poor, money rich restaurant dining scene in London this new partnership seems like a win-win situation and could lead to a more seamless booking process for consumers, which, of course, means increased sales for restaurants.
Closing the loop
Of course, one of the features of social media is its transience with an Instagram user tending to show only fleeting interest in a particular brand because of the scrolling behaviour encouraged via the app’s functionality.
Now that Quandoo is being integrated however, the ever-increasing instaporn moments we all know and love really do become the money shot.
The images also move from the teasing realm to the transactional. Consumers will now be able to literally put their money where their mouth wants to be.
For Pierpaolo Zollo, Vice President of Business Development at Quandoo, this new service is about “driving even more value for our restaurant partners…Thanks to this partnership, Instagram users will have an easier way to reserve a restaurant at their favourite restaurant in less than a minute, no matter where they are; while restaurants will be able to take advantage of these features, making Instagram another place to do business.”
Considering that Quandoo is one of the fastest growing real time reservation platforms in the world right now, operating in 12 countries across Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, we expect this partnership to be a fruitful one. And we believe Zollo when he says it will be a ”seamless experience” considering it is the reservations arm of Recruit, the tech giant behind Hot Pepper, Japan’s chief booking platform, with over 46,000 participating restaurants.
In terms of customer experience, the following question needs to be asked though – is this development further taking away the personal touch of booking by phone or in person? And what will be the impact on hospitality and how restaurants maintain their important customer facing relationship?
No longer having a friendly voice on the end of the line who can helpfully answer any questions a guest may have could prove problematic. However, the feature will apparently allow diners to include special requests, so that restaurants can prepare for birthdays, anniversaries and other meaningful events.
But is this ‘computer says yes scenario’ too simplistic a model to really get things right on these important occasions? Or will the functionality evolve and render front desk hospitality useless in a few years?
We think that customers will still always want the human touch as an option when booking, but that this kind of technology, being simpler and more time-efficient, will be favoured by the digital native generations coming through and all the foodie-obsessed grammers out there now.
Let the booking commence!