Looking for the craft beer experience without the buzz? You’re not alone. Health conscious consumers are driving an uptick in non-alcoholic beer sales, which saw a 14% increase in growth last year, according to IRI, the data firm that tracks beverage sales.
Non-alcoholic beers (0.5% ABV or lower) have been around for years in a limited capacity with minimal change (think O’Doul’s or Buckler). Craft breweries, however, are redefining the antiquated take on “near beer” and moving the consumer mindset around alcohol-free beer from a timeout in the penalty box to a savory experience on par with the country’s top kings and queens of craft. According to Global Market Insights, the global non-alcoholic beer market is expected to double over the next few years, growing from $13 billion in 2016 to $25 billion by 2024.
From IPA’s and lagers to stouts and porters, craft brewers are pushing the envelope of the non-alcoholic beer category, giving the “sober curious” a myriad of new, flavorful options to choose from on the shelf. Athletic Brewing Co., based out of Connecticut, specializes in non-alcoholic beer, releasing their limited-batch brews 50 to 100 cases at a time. To say that consumer demand is high for Athletic’s beer is an understatement—the brewery’s non-alcoholic Double Hop IPA sold out in 32 seconds online this June. Athletic Brewing distributes to over 2,000 stores across the U.S.
Bravus Brewing Co., which also specializes in brewing without a buzz, sells everything from an IPA to an oatmeal stout. Michael Hayes, the company’s customer liaison, told NPR, “We can’t make the stuff fast enough,” and that the new demand can be attributed to “recent changes in the attitude towards drinking alcohol.” Aside from the health benefits related to reducing alcohol consumption, Bravus’ hangover-free brewskies contain a measly 100 calories per 12-ounces. Another upside to non-alcoholic beer is that it isn’t subject to restrictive sales and consumption laws and can be shipped to any state across the U.S.
According to the International Wines and Spirits Record’s (IWSR) recent 2019 report “Low- and No-Alcohol Report,” 52% of U.S. adults who drink alcohol are currently trying (or have tried in the past) to reduce their alcohol intake. Brandy Rand, president of IWSR, asserted in a statement to Forbes, “The rise in mindful drinking, along with health and wellness, is a trend that is here to stay.”
Small craft breweries aren’t the only players in the game taking notice of this new opportunity. Heineken’s 0.0 and Guinness’s Open Gate Pure Brew are two non-alcoholic beers currently offered by two of world’s largest breweries. Anheuser-Busch’s non-alcoholic O’Doul’s (which has been around for 30 years) is launching a new campaign this summer in conjunction with local artists in LA, Chicago, and NYC, to produce limited edition designs for its buzz-free brand. Adam Warrington, VP of Corporate Social Responsibility at Anheuser Bush, told beveragedaily.com, “We’ve seen more consumers reaching for non-alcoholic and low ABV beverages, thanks in part to consumers becoming more aware of drinking in moderation.”
Non-alcoholic beer is well on its way to a fresh start in the beer market as a viable option for consumers looking to moderate or eliminate alcohol from their diets without losing the flavor and social interaction they’ve come to love from a frosty pint. The space for breweries and retailers to capitalize and experiment within this segment seems limitless based upon the hundreds of flavor profiles and craft-beer types that currently flood the industry. If you’ve yet to try the latest trend among beer enthusiasts, don’t worry, there’s a good chance a non-alcoholic craft beer is quickly making its way to a shelf or tap room near you.