In January of this year, Müller launched its newest yoghurts as part of the ‘Light’ range: gin & tonic and pink gin & elderflower. Despite being practically alcohol-free (pots containing less than 0.5%), the product launch became, momentarily, a focal point for the debate about the normalisation of alcohol consumption. While Müller says it knows “from feedback from our consumers [that] they are enjoying it”, the move was criticised by Dr Nigel Wells as “unnecessary and counterproductive to public health”, especially given it was Dry January.
Müller is hardly the first brand to pair food with booze – if anything, it’s just an extreme example of what we’ve been buying for years.
There is a long history of alcohol being used in food where its inclusion is integral to the flavour, experience and cooking process of a dish. Think the wine in coq au vin or the marsala in tiramisu. But the Müller yoghurts are of a different ilk, part of a parade of snack foods that are jumping on popular drink trends. Gin, prosecco, rosé and beer as well as a range of cocktail flavours have been added to gummies, crisps, ice creams, chocolate, popcorn, marmalades and, now, yoghurts. Some of these foods contain up to 5% alcohol, others so little as to be considered alcohol-free, but all proudly signpost their boozy flavour profile. Many of them are genuinely delicious but for every perfect gin-infused experience there is another that falls flat. Which begs the question: when has the trend gone too far?
It was the 20th century that saw the proliferation of novelty alcoholic items. In 2008, the European Centre for Monitoring Alcohol Marketing (EUCAM) looked into the phenomenon, citing a whisky-flavoured toothpaste (no!) from 1954 as an early example. They looked at both non-branded (wine sorbet) and branded (Jack Daniel’s chocolates) iterations, and pointed to a growing trend for novelty combinations (like champagne-flavoured Marmite, which now goes for up to £20 on eBay). Since then, the market has only grown bigger.