Demand for low-alcohol and low-calorie beverages is increasing around the world, according to findings in the new IWSR Insight Report 2012, and women are said to be driving the trend.

Trends are emerging from Asia to Latin America across both the wine and spirits categories. In Europe, this is mainly due to increased taxes; producers are reducing the alcohol content to keep prices low. Elsewhere, consumers are demanding what are perceived to be healthier alternatives to full-strength products.

In Asia, the trend can be seen across many categories. Chinese women are increasingly switching from baijiu to wine as it is thought to be the healthier option. In Japan, alcohol-free beer and liqueur ranges, as well as low-alcohol mixed drinks are fashionable, while in the Philippines ‘light’ versions of the key local brandy and rum brands are seeing significant success.

Increased health awareness in Latin America has affected consumer habits particularly amongst women; many bars in Brazil are now offering low-calorie alternatives to traditional cocktails and are even using artificial sweeteners instead of sugar in the classic caipirinha. In Colombia, the launch of sugar-free aguardientes continues to be a big hit, while in Mexico consumers have started to mix tequila with sparkling water instead of the typical grapefruit soda.

In the US, the focus is also on women’s weight consciousness and health. Brands such as Skinnygirl – which is now launching vodka and wine lines in addition to the original margarita cocktail – are hitting a nerve by promoting low-calorie drinks and natural flavorings.

For Europeans the focus is more on price than health concerns, although in most cases both factors will play a role. As taxes rise and price sensitivity remains high, producers are launching lower-alcohol alternatives to the key brands. The UK is seeing a surge in low-alcohol wines which are filling up the spaces vacated by full-strength wines unable to compete at the lower price points.