The Danish beer giant has been driving up its alcohol-free volumes over the last few years: powering through the pandemic with volume growth of 11% in 2020 (against a total volume decline of 3.8%) followed by 17% growth for the category in 2021.
At the moment, growth is being driven by Europe: with most growth in Central & Eastern Europe where Carlsberg grew its alcohol-free volumes 19% in 2021. Russia and Ukraine represent Carlsberg’s largest markets for alcohol-free brews.
But the company sees the opportunity to be an early player in the category in Asia: where it has recently launched several alcohol-free drinks.
Commenting on the alcohol-free category in the company's FY2021 earnings call this week, CEO Cees 't Hart said: “Our ambition is to continue our strong growth momentum.
"We will do so by accelerating volume growth in Western Europe, further scale our alcohol-free brews portfolio in Central & Eastern Europe and seeding the category in Asia, leveraging our strong local power brands, our international premium brands, and stand-alone alcohol-free brands.
"Our ambition is to more than double our alcohol-free brew volumes.”
Carlsberg has taken the first steps in building up its alcohol-free portfolio Asia with the launches of Chongqing Beer AFB in China (an alcohol-free version of its 3.3% ABV pale lager) and Carlsberg Alcohol Free in Singapore and Hong Kong.
In Singapore, it launched two alcohol-free versions under the Carlsberg brand to cater to audiences with different taste preferences: Carlsberg Alcohol Free Pilsner and the Carlsberg Alcohol Free Wheat both contain less than 0.5% ABV.
The drivers of the category in Asia mirror those in Europe. Already a growing category pre-pandemic, alcohol-free brews have been driven further with an increased awareness in health and wellbeing during COVID-19: a trend that holds true across the globe. Consumers week out premium, high quality products, and they’re looking for beverage options that are in line with their lifestyles.
Carlsberg says it also wants to be a driving force in debunking the myth that alcohol-free beer is a lesser alternative to regular beer: positioning it instead as a positive choice.
Carlsberg 0.0 is perhaps the most recognisable as Carlsberg’s alcohol-free take on its flagship brew. But local brands are particularly important to Carlsberg’s alcohol-free portfolio across Europe: including Baltika 0 in Russia, Munkholm in Norway, Nordic and Tuborg Zero in Denmark, Feldschlösschen Alkoholfrei in Switzerland, Tourtel in France, and Birell in Bulgaria and Poland.
Recent launches in the category include Baltika Zero Grapefruit and Raspberry; Brooklyn Special Effects; and Somersby 0.0.