People normally drink beer for the alcohol, but there's a growing awareness that -- particularly in Britain -- we're drinking too much and placing too much strain on our liver, waistline and the NHS. So just as with smoking, there just has to be pent-up demand for a non-alcohol beer. You can just picture the summer advs for beers that let the designated driver. or simply someone watching their alcohol intake, enjoy a beer with friends in a pub garden or a friend's patio while the BBQ sizzles without feeling left out.
The health benefits of zero alcohol beer are obvious, but they can only be delivered if the drink tastes like beer. As part of my supping hobby I've tried a few over the years and they've all been hugely disappointing. A master brewer explains to Marketing Week today that this is because making beer that contains no alcohol is a lot more complicated than you may think. This often leads to an end product often tastes odd, usually too sweet and certainly not anything like traditional beer. However, there are new processes, we are promised, that will change this and get the zero option offering a similar taste to beer containing alcohol.
Evidently the UK market has not been impressed to date with no-alcohol beers. Just 14% of drinkers bought zero alcohol beer in 2013, although interestingly, this proportion leaps to one in four 18-34 year olds. Nevertheless, zero alcohol beers only accounted for 4% of new beer launches last year.
However, just think about it. Even when beer tastes odd, or is consumed by people who haven't got too used to a perception of how it should taste, one in four younger people have been open to trying it out. Can anyone else hear "beer for the millennials" screaming out at them? Though we didn't admit it at the time, beer took most people quite a bit of getting used to when they first started drinking, so this younger age group have to be ripe pickings for a variety that is normally considered to be sweeter than the more bitter taste of beer with alcohol.
The world around us is changing. More people are quitting smoking or switching to e-cigarettes and people are generally better informed and more concerned about the lifestyle choices than ever before. Any brewer or marketer who takes a look at low take-up figures for zero alcohol beers is missing a point. I mean, I can't stand them myself, but I'm open to the suggestion there are now ways of making them better and, to be honest, I reckon I'm probably just on the outer edges of the demographic that would initially popularise them.
Get the taste right, get the marketing right and zero alcohol beer will be a drinker's equivalent of an e-cigarette and, I'd hazard a guess, it will be younger people, and the more health conscious of all ages, who will drive a revolution in drinking.