New research from global market intelligence agency Mintel reveals that over a quarter of consumers in France (28 per cent) and Germany (27 per cent ) agree that low (under 3.5 per cent) or no alcohol beer tastes just as good as full-strength beer.
And while younger consumers may have been the most enthusiastic drinkers in previous generations, this group are among the most likely to see the merits of low or no alcohol beer. As many as 37 per cent of French consumers aged 18-24 and 31 per cent of German consumers of the same age agree that low or no alcohol beer tastes just as good as ‘regular’ beer (4-6 per cent ABV).
While many consumers seem to enjoy the taste of the drink, the stigma of drinking non-alcoholic beer may also be disappearing. Mintel research highlights that just one in 10 (nine per cent) of German consumers say they would be embarrassed to be seen drinking low or no alcohol beer, followed by 14 per cent of consumers in France.
Jonny Forsyth, global drinks analyst at Mintel, said: “As health and wellness trends influence alcohol consumption more and more, consumers are being drawn towards moderate beer options and the stigma of drinking low or no alcohol beer is being challenged. Looking to the future, the global beer market will see even more moderate innovation as Millennials in particular seek healthier and less calorific beer options.
“This goes hand in hand with a number of brands working to raise the quality of the product, especially non-alcoholic beers. 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.”
What’s more, this Oktoberfest it seems many will be opting for a low or no alcohol beer in order to forgo the hangover. Among German consumers, over half (53 per cent) agree there is “less chance of getting a hangover if you drink low or no alcohol beer, rather than full strength (4-6 per cent ABV)”. This rises to six in 10 French (61 per cent) consumers.
But it’s not just the hangover that consumers are keen to steer clear of; over half of consumers in France (56 per cent) agree that low or no alcohol beer allows you to stay in control when drinking.
“Control has become a key watchword for today’s younger drinkers. Unlike previous cohorts, they have their nights out documented visually on social media where it is likely to remain for the rest of their lives. Over-drinking is therefore something many seek to avoid,” Forsyth said.
Consumption of non-alcoholic beer is growing fast, with as many as 33 per cent of Spanish, 23 per cent of German and nine per cent of French consumers drinking this variety.
However, while European interest is high, China is 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 per cent) beers launched in China in 2016 contained low or no alcohol beer (below 3.5 per cent ABV), compared with around one in 10 beers launched in Spain (12 per cent), Germany (11 per cent) and Poland nine). Falling behind in terms of launch activity, just six per cent of launches in France in 2016 were low or no alcohol beer, compared to a global average of eight per cent.
“The amount of global low or no alcohol beer innovation remains very limited, despite plenty of activity in Europe, Asia Pacific and the Middle East and Africa. While China leads in low and no alcohol beer innovation, Mintel research indicates that Chinese consumers, in general, prefer less strong beer in terms of ABV, compared to the global market,” Forsyth said.
Furthermore, when it comes to future product innovation it seems the majority of consumers have full faith in tried and trusted brands to produce a tasty low or no alcohol beer. 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, with half of consumers in Spain (50%) agreeing with this statement.
“Our European consumer research confirms the importance of brand trust in helping consumers to overcome the significant taste barrier. The success of non-alcoholic beer innovation in Germany offers other lessons for what can work elsewhere. German non-alcoholic beer producers have vastly improved production techniques, resulting in the fact that over half of German non-alcoholic beer drinkers think that non-alcoholic beer tastes as good as a standard alcoholic beer,” Forsyth added.
Finally, Mintel research highlights that the Middle East and Africa may be a hotbed for low or no alcohol beer product launch activity in the coming years. According to Mintel GNPD, almost a third (30 per cent) of beer launches in the Middle East and Africa contained low or no alcohol in 2016, up from 22 per cent in 2015.