Beer famously includes just four ingredients – grain, hops, yeast and water – but in recent years, a fifth ingredient has emerged: fruit. Over the past five years, around one in 10 global beer launches have contained fruit flavours, with beer brands primarily imparting fruit flavours by using “from concentrate” juice, fruit flavour extracts and fruit peel, according to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD).

The fruit beer trend began to accelerate in Europe around 2012, mainly in the form of radlers/shandies (usually half beer and half fruit juice or lemonade), but also in beer launches with added fruit flavouring. Since then, major brewers such as Heineken, Carlsberg and Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI) successfully revived such fruit beer traditions as they sought to offset a decline in mainstream beer sales.

Fruit-flavoured beer launches doubled in North America 2014-17

However, the European fruit beer trend is losing momentum as just 7% of all European beer launches used fruit flavouring in the first half of 2017 versus a peak of 12% in 2014. In contrast, 16% of North American beer launches in the first half of 2017 were fruit flavoured, double the proportion of launches in 2014. Latin America is also seeing the growth of fruit beers, led by Brazil.

AB InBev targets North American beer drinkers with fruit

ABI has recently started to push fruitier beer on North Americans as US beer drinkers seek more flavourful options, something which has helped fuel the growth of craft beer. But craft beers often feature more bitter and complex flavours, which leaves a gap in the market for mainstream brewers to exploit, using sweeter, more accessible fruit flavours.

Mintel Purchase Intelligence shows that US consumers aged 21-34 are significantly more likely to say they would purchase fruit flavoured beer over non-fruit flavoured and plain beer when looking at all US beer launches since January 2016. Fruity beers benefit from the “health halo” of using fruit, with brands increasingly showcasing the fresh fruit ingredients visually on pack, but fruity beers also score higher on purchase intent for the key drivers of taste and refreshment.

Craft brands jump on the trend in the Americas

It’s not just big brewers who are exploiting the fruit beer trend. In fact, craft brewers have arguably become more active in their use of fruit than bigger brewers, especially in the US. In recent years, North American craft beer brands have already been flirting with fruit in styles such as sours, cherry beers and saisons, but micro-brewers are now regularly adding fruit and fruit juice to their pale ales and IPA beer-styles.

Another country where craft beer brands are pushing fruitier beers is Brazil. Brazil has been a key factor in the rise of fruit-flavoured beers in Latin America, with regional beer launches doubling since 2015. Brazilian brewers lack the ability to grow the fruity aroma hops so beloved of craft beer fans in America, which has led to local craft brands experimenting with tropical Brazilian fruits.

While the declining interest in fruit-flavoured beers in Europe suggests that this trend will only last for a few years in new global markets, this could be a very lucrative few years for brands that time their entry well. It is also a great entry point for consumers who might not otherwise drink beer. Although only 4% of Brazilian adults drink fruit flavoured beer, this jumps to 9% for the 18-24 year-old females the industry is seeking to attract, according to Mintel’s report on beer in Brazil.

Jonny Forsyth is Mintel’s Global Drinks Analyst and is regularly called upon by both national and international media to provide commentary and analysis on market and consumer trends within the drinks sector. He brings ten years of experience working in the marketing industry, with roles at Starcom Mediavest, AB-Inbev, and Trinity Mirror.

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