Jul 18, 2016

    Cheers to 0% alcohol in beer to stay healthy


    ANHEUSER-BUSCH InBev, which will soon make almost 30 per cent of the world's beer, wants to serve more low and alcohol-free brews to drinkers aiming to live healthier.

    The Belgium-based brewer has forecast that lower- and zero-strength beer will grow from a small base to make up 20 per cent of its sales by end-2025.

    Brewers pioneered non-alcoholic beer in the 1980s and 1990s, with only limited success. This time, they believe they have two game-changers - sustainable consumer demand and a product that actually tastes like regular beer.

    AB InBev, best known for its Budweiser, Stella Artois and Corona brands, will develop low alcohol products of up to 3.5 per cent, or "no-alcohol" products of 0.5 per cent and lower.

    Its latest 0 per cent Budweiser Prohibition Beer was launched in Canada in May.

    Faced with the rising challenges from smaller craft brewers and limited growth in mature markets, major brewers hope weak beer is a sector where they can expand.

    "The higher alcohol segment is largely covered by craft," said Euromonitor senior drinks analyst Spiros Malandrakis. "The mainstream boys have decided to go to a segment that is less saturated."

    The attraction is clear, with potentially stronger growth and fatter margins as brewers sell non-alcoholic products at the same price or more than a regular beer, but pay far lower or no excise tax.

    AB InBev and fellow brewers believe consumers have also changed too since the 1980s when non-alcoholic beer was targeted more at drivers and pregnant women.

    They are not looking to woo teetotallers but responding to health-conscious consumers seeking lower calorie, more natural alternatives to standard soft drinks.

    Said Charles Nouwen, AB InBev's global director for product development: "Consumers have evolved, saying they want to have something that is lighter or non-alcoholic for enjoyment."