While Europe sees considerable activity in the category, interest is less pronounced in other markets such as North America – where no/low alcohol beers only made up 2% of beer launches in 2016.
Mintel predicts the Middle East and Africa could be a ‘hotbed’ for low/no alcohol beer product launch activity in years to come, with around 30% of beer launches in the Middle East and Africa containing low/no alcohol in 2016: up from 22% in 2015.
“There is a strong case for further non-alcoholic beer growth potential in the Middle Eastern and Asian markets, especially those with a big Muslim population, such as Indonesia,” says Jonny Forsyth, global food and drink analyst, Mintel.
China leads innovation
On a global scale, innovation in the low and no alcohol beer category ‘remains very low’, says Mintel. In 2014 and 2015, beer with an ABV of less than 3.5% (including non-alcoholic beer) represented 9% of all beer launches, down from 11% in 2012 and falling to 8% in 2016.
However, this is set to change as interest in the category grows: and with big industry players such as AB InBev committing to the sector (AB InBev has pledged that at least 20% of global beer volumes will be low/no alcohol by 2025).
China is currently the most prolific global innovator of low or no alcohol beer product launches, according to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD). Over one in four (29%) beers launched in China in 2016 contained low (defined by Mintel as under 3.5% ABV) or no alcohol, compared with around one in 10 beers launched in Spain (12%), Germany (11%), Poland (9%) and the UK (7%).
Only 6% of beers launched in France in 2016 were low or no alcohol, compared to a global average of 8%.
North America lags in innovation
In North America, moderate beer innovation remains ‘stubbornly low’, according to Mintel.
In 2015 and 2016, only 2% of all retail launches of beer had an ABV of less than 3.5% despite demand for more “sessionable” craft beers.
However, there are signs this could change in the future, says Mintel.
“AB InBev’s launch of Budweiser Prohibition in Canada in time for summer 2016 looks designed to test whether there is scaleable potential for such products in the US.”
In the spotlight: Germany
The success of German non-alcoholic beer innovation can provide lessons to others around the globe, with German producers improving production techniques. According to Mintel research, over half of German consumers (56%) say they would trust their favourite brand to produce a good tasting low or no alcohol version, while 27% of consumers agree that low or no alcohol beer tastes as good as full-strength beer.
Traditionally perceived as an inferior option, attitudes are changing towards low and no alcohol beers, says Mintel: today 9% of German consumers say they would be embarrassed to be seen drinking low or no alcohol beer.
“Germany in particular is now making high quality non-alcoholic beers and, as a result, non-alcoholic beer has now become a mainstream option. German beer drinkers may not have a history of moderation, but this is changing,” said Forsyth.