Nonalcoholic beer pulls into the fast lane with no shame

Nonalcoholic beer pulls into the fast lane with no shame
© Jobybräu

The latest figures from beverage industry associations and the German Statistical Office indicate a decline in beverage consumption among the country’s consumers. Overall, Germans drank approximately 750.9 liters of alcoholic, nonalcoholic, hot and homemade beverages in 2017. In looking at the statistics, however, it’s apparent that nonalcoholic drinks, in particular those considered healthy, bucked the trend and gained ground during the observed period from 2011 to 2017. This development is also being seen in the nonalcoholic beer and mixed beer beverages segment. It’s a trend that will most likely continue to grow – even beyond Germany.

According to the German Statistical Office, German beer sales totaled 93.5 million hectoliters in 2017, a decline of 2.5 percent compared with the previous year. In contrast, information from the German brewing federation gathered by Plato Logic indicates that nonalcoholic beers gained ground, reaching a 6.5 percent share of the beer market in Germany. Mixed beer beverages in particular, such as nonalcoholic Radler, a type of shandy, saw a strong boost in the past year and grew by 14 percent, according the GfK Consumer Panel.

Nonalcoholic beer is a worldwide trend

As reported by Plato Logic, 22.7 million hectoliters of nonalcoholic beer were sold worldwide in 2017. That corresponds to a share of 1.2 percent of the worldwide beer market, according to the market research firm. Western Europe consumed 10.9 million hectoliters of the total. The market share here was almost 4 percent. Germany and Spain (6.7 percent market share) were the leaders in nonalcoholic consumption. In contrast to consumption of traditional beer, which remained largely constant, Plato Logic’s research showed that consumption of nonalcoholic beer rose 4.5 percent worldwide over the past five years.

Germans can have their pick among 400 types of nonalcoholic beer

In Germany alone, fans of nonalcoholic beer can now choose from around 400 different brands. Versatility is key. Pils, Weissbier, Radler or regional specialties such as Kölsch, Alt and various craft beer specialties – practically every beer is also available in a nonalcoholic version. And the list continues to grow. At the same time, small breweries are as active as the medium-sized and larger breweries.

Study shows: Nonalcoholic beers can hang with the popular crowd

This may be because breweries are betting that nonalcoholic beer may not be taking a back seat to traditional beer for much longer. As a Mintel study shows, the younger generation in particular can appreciate the advantages of a beer with little or no alcohol. Relatedly, 31 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds in Germany and 37 percent of the same demographic in France stated that “light” beer with alcohol content less than 3.5 percent tasted just as good as traditional beer with a 4 to 6 percent alcohol content. Viewed across all age groups, more than a quarter of German consumers thought beer with a lower alcohol percentage or no alcohol tasted just as good as traditional beer. Also interesting: While it might have been embarrassing in the past, it doesn’t seem to be any longer. According to the study, just one out of 10 Germans feels embarrassed to be seen drinking nonalcoholic or light beer. In France, 14 percent feel this way. This also means that nonalcoholic beer has become quite socially acceptable. Jonny Forsyth, Global Food & Drink Analyst at Mintel, explains: “Trends in health and wellness have a growing influence on alcohol consumption and result in consumers choosing healthier types of beer. At the same time, the long-held stigma associated with nonalcoholic beer is disappearing.”

The Mintel study also shows that consumers aren’t simply making some vague claims, but are actually behaving in line with their statements. To back this up, 33 percent of people in Spain and 23 percent in Germany stated that they drank nonalcoholic beer in the past six months.

Helpful at the marathon …

One of the reasons that nonalcoholic beer is becoming more and more attractive is that many studies have shown its beneficial side effects. For instance, sports medicine specialist Dr. Johannes Scherr, Chair for Preventive and Rehabilitative Sports Medicine at the Technical University of Munich, pointed to a study showing that consumption of nonalcoholic Weissbier has a positive impact on marathon runners. A group of his test subjects drank 1 to 1.5 liters of nonalcoholic Weissbier every day for two weeks before a marathon. The other group drank a polyphenol-free placebo beverage. At the end of the marathon, the subjects who drank the nonalcoholic Weissbier had significantly fewer inflammatory markers in their blood and came down with fewer infections than members of the control group. “We attribute the outcome to the polyphenols,” Dr. Scherr comments.

The results of a study by neurologist David Karken at the University of Indiana in the U.S. are also surprising. He determined that consuming even nonalcoholic beer releases dopamine and resulted in a feel-good effect. He concluded that authentic-tasting nonalcoholic beer in particular caused an effect similar to that of alcoholic beer.

… and for strength training

Moreover, there are interesting new products that have certainly elevated the image of nonalcoholic drinks. For instance, scientists in the brewing technology department of the Technical University of Berlin have recently developed what is supposedly the world’s first nonalcoholic protein beer, JoyBräu, for start-up founders Tristan Brümmer and Erik Dimter, whose target group are bodybuilders and weightlifters. The nonalcoholic specialty beer has been sold online since March 2018. It will soon be available for sale in fitness centers throughout Germany. The jury of the “FIBO Innovation & Trend Awards” chose the product as this year’s winner in the Lifestyle category of the “industry Oscars.”

Beer for drivers – directly from the car maker

Volkswagen recently introduced a no less attention-getting idea in Argentina. As possibly the first car maker to do so, the Volkswagen group in Argentina is brewing its own nonalcoholic beer. The idea came from ad agency DDB Argentina, who aren’t wagging their fingers about the dangers of alcohol while driving – instead, they’re putting a positive spin on the nonalcoholic variety. During the campaign at a hip bar in Buenos Aires, the Volkswagen beer was passed out specifically to drivers who were avoiding alcohol.

These examples illustrate how nonalcoholic beer can absolutely open up a great deal of creative potential. Mintel even goes so far as to claim that the success of new nonalcoholic beers can service as inspiration for other markets.

Future potential

For the future, the market research company also forecasts that the Middle East and Africa could become a hotspot for launching beers with little to no alcohol content. “We see great potential, especially in countries with higher Muslim populations, such as in Indonesia,” Forsyth says.

So the question is whether it wouldn’t be worthwhile to now invest more heavily in the development of creative nonalcoholic beers and mixed beer beverages, if the desire for a good tasting beer is to match the trend toward health and wellness. In any case, claims Mintel, consumers appear to be giving their preferred breweries a great vote of confidence in this regard: The majority of German consumers stated that they trust their favorite brand to provide a great tasting nonalcoholic version of their beer.

Friederike Arndt

As a freelance trade journalist, Friederike Arndt is regarded as an expert in the area of beverages. She spent a long time writing for, inter alia, the trade magazines Getränkeindustrie (beverage industry) and Getränkefachgroßhandel (beverage wholesale trade). On the blog, she reports on the latest trends and innovations in the field of non-alcoholic beverages.