Carlsberg: ‘We believe alcohol-free brews will see further acceleration following COVID-19’

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT


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Carlsberg continues to champion the long-term potential of the alcohol-free category, which it sees being fuelled by an increased awareness of health and well-being among consumers as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. It pledges to keep investing in the category.

Overall, alcohol-free brews grew by 9% in Western Europe over the first six months of 2020, according to the brewer’s H1 2020 results.

And the company is responding to a heightened focus on health and wellness among consumers: with new innovations in both low-alcohol and low calorie drinks.

Carlsberg launched its 0,0% alcohol-free Tuborg Zero in Denmark on May 1. After one month, it had become the best selling 0,0% beer in the country, according to the brewer. And Carlsberg is also putting its foot on the gas for low-calorie innovations, with the launch of two hard seltzer brands in Norway and Singapore in May. 

'We adapted rapidly to the pandemic and put extra speed on our low-calorie and low-alcohol variants'

Carlsberg has long set out low-alcohol and alcohol-free as a key growth area for the company: and says that this priority remains unchanged by the pandemic (Pre-pandemic, it was seeing around 16% volume growth in its alcohol-free brews,​ against 1% growth for its core beer portfolio).

In the low/no alcohol category, Carlsberg 0.0 is perhaps the most recognisable as Carlsberg’s alcohol-free take on its flagship brew. But, in fact, it is local brands that make up the main part of Carlsberg’s alcohol-free portfolio: such as Baltika 0 in Russia, Munkholm in Norway, Nordic in Denmark, Feldschlösschen Alkoholfrei in Switzerland, and Birell in Bulgaria and Poland.

tuborg nul

In Denmark, the new Tuborg Zero was launched in May, seeking to respond to demand for lower-alcohol products, particularly among younger people in cafes, bars and concert venues. In launching Tuborg Zero, Carlberg set out its ambitions for the brand to become number 1 in the 0,0 category and number 2 version for the overall non-alcoholic beer category in Denmark (Carlsberg Nordic is currently the market leader with a 42% volume share).

Following the same health and wellness consumber trends, Carlsberg is piloting two low-calorie hard seltzers:​ Garage Hard Seltzer in Norway (a 4.5% ABV hard seltzer with under 100 calories per 330ml can) and Somersby Hard Seltzer in Singapore.

Despite the disruption posed by the pandemic – and a general move to reduce SKUs and simplify the supply chain – Carlsberg sees the low-alcohol and low-calorie categories as ripe for development. Stephanie Illgner, marketing director brews and beyond at Carlsberg, told BeverageDaily that a focus on a healthier lifestyle is as important as ever - hence the continued focus on innovation. 

“We adapted very rapidly to the changed market environment and put extra speed on our new and innovative low-calorie or low-alcohol variants that were already in the pipeline,”​ Illgner explained. “There’s Garage in Norway, Somersby in Singapore, but also Tuborg launched its 0,0% alcohol-free Tuborg ZERO in Denmark also on 1 May. After a month only, it was the bestselling 0,0% beer in Denmark.

“In general, we want to ensure that we offer a deliberate choice for those who champions a healthier lifestyle in all markets during this pandemic.”

Carlsberg H1 2020 (global figures for Jan-June 2020)

  • Total organic volume -7.7%
  • Craft and speciality volume -2%
  • Alcohol-free brews overall -2% (attributed to lower export and licence volumes)
  • Alcohol-free brews Western Europe +9%

Like most other major F&B companies, Carlsberg's overall volumes were hit by the coronavirus crisis, particularly with lockdowns wiping out much of the on-trade. But alcohol-free brews performed relatively well in comparison to the rest of the portfolio. 

"Our continuing investments in and focus on building the craft and specialty and alcohol-free brews categories have been an advantage to us, as both categories outperformed the rest of the portfolio significantly,”​ said Carlsberg CEO Cees ‘t Hart.

“We continue to believe in the long-term growth opportunities for craft and specialties and alcohol-free brews, and we will therefore continue to invest in these categories.”

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