Mintel non-alcoholic beerA love of a cold pint of beer unites nationalities throughout the globe, however it seems European consumers are gaining a thirst for the non-alcoholic (NAB) variety. Indeed new research from Mintel looking at six key European consumer markets reveals that it is Spain with the biggest thirst to quench for NAB – as in 2013, three-fifths (60%) of Spanish beer-buyers purchased non-alcoholic beer, rising to 69% of consumers aged 45-54.
And it is not only in Spain where Mintel’s research highlights demand. Whilst German consumers are forecast to purchase 5.9 billion litres of all types of beer in 2014, half (47%) of consumers purchased non-alcoholic beer in 2013. Indeed, in Germany in 2013, non-alcoholic beer accounted for almost one in five (19%) beer launches, comparing to only one in 10 launches (11%) in 2012.

Furthermore, the demand is strong throughout Europe as one in three (29%) Italian, a quarter (26%) of Polish and 18% of French consumers bought NAB in 2013. In addition, despite having the notorious ‘lager lout’ status, one in seven (14%) British beer buyers purchased non-alcoholic beer in 2013, rising to a quarter (26%) of 18-34 year-olds among what is clearly a much more sensible generation.

However despite the strong consumer demand for non-alcoholic beer, these launches accounted for just 3% of all global beer launch activity so far in 2014, less than the 4% in 2011 and significantly less than the 10% in 1999. In the UK, 2014 has seen only 4% of new beer innovations which are non-alcoholic.

Jonny Forsyth, Global Drinks Analyst at Mintel, said:

“Non alcoholic beer has huge long-term sales potential, both in Muslim-dominated regions and health-conscious but beer-loving Western markets. This is an area of innovation which all major brewers should be focusing on – as consumers want reassurance of product quality, something trusted brands can provide.”

“The greatest influence on recent NAB sales is their improved taste. Whilst NABs were pushed heavily in the late-1990s and early 2000s, this failed to translate into global sales because the product was widely viewed as inferior. This meant people preferred to drink a soft drink if they were not drinking alcohol, rather than a poor imitation of beer. Yet, the modern varieties – especially in Germany – are much closer to the taste of full alcohol beer and make an ideal adult or premium ‘soft drink’ option. This taste improvement has largely been due to the refinement of the production process.” Jonny continues.

Furthermore, Mintel’s research shows that the popularity of non-alcoholic beer is strong amongst older consumers and women. Indeed, 63% of Spanish and 50% of German female beer buyers have bought NAB in the past six months, compared to 57% and 46% of male beer buyers respectively. Additionally, 62% of Spanish and 49% of German beer buyers aged 55+ bought a NAB in 2013, compared to 51% and 42% of consumers aged 18-24 respectively.

“Analysis of NAB drinkers by age in both Spain and Germany, tells a similar and positive story for brewers attempting to reverse flat sales in Western markets. Millennial beer drinkers are less likely to drink NABs – although not hugely – with purchasing peaking among the consumers aged 35 and over, presumably as consumers become more health-conscious and less resilient to the negative effects of alcohol. Therefore, NABs will be a key pillar of the strategy to target ageing Western populations with very different product needs. Also of interest to brewers is that Spanish and German women are slightly more likely to drink NABs, meaning it is a great way of attracting more females into the category, while still appealing to men.” Jonny continues.

Mintel’s research also shows the continued uptake of low-alcoholic beers, especially beer mixes/Radlers which tend to be fruit-flavoured beers mixed with juices at an ABV (Alcohol by Volume) of around 2-3%.

“Despite the latest NAB beers imitating the focus on fruit flavoured innovation, the two are completely different products. Lower ABV beers provide a more “sessionable” option for beer drinkers who want to look after their health and stay in control. Yet, non-alcoholic beer is more akin to a soft drink, and its lack of any alcohol has traditionally been the major barrier to the vast majority of beer drinkers.” Jonny concludes.

Press review copies of the analysis and interviews with Global Drinks Analyst Jonny Forsyth, are available on request from the press office.

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