Commentary

Hold The Booze: What's Behind The Non-Alcoholic Beer Trend

One of the biggest trends in beer right now is taking the alcohol out of the equation.

Non-alcoholic beer sales rose 39% in 2019 and another 38% in 2020, hitting $188 million, according to IRI. A watershed moment came in October 2021, when Ritual announced a deal with Whole Foods to stock the company’s tequila, gin and whiskey substitutes.

But, according to IRI, the top-selling non-alcoholic beers are familiar names. No. 1 was Heineken, with $68.2 million in sales for the 52 weeks ending April 17. No. 2 was Budweiser with $37.1 million, followed by longstanding non-alcoholic beer O’Doul’s with $37 million.

Taste

Non-alcoholic beer lacks the aroma that comes from heating up hops. But scientists have found a way to add hoppy flavor to the production of non-alcoholic beer.

As Vice wrote earlier this year:  “these aren’t your parent’s NA beers. They’ve come a looong way from the bland, flavorless, near-beer brews of yesteryear.”

Experts attribute the change to innovations in vacuum evaporation, filtration and other techniques that let brewers extract alcohol while leaving the flavor intact.

Casual Drinkers

Non-alcoholic beers used to be marketed to non-drinkers, but now they’re marketed to casual drinkers, who sometimes want to take a break. Heineken launched its alcohol-free 0.0 product in 2019 when it noticed large numbers of young people not drinking alcohol at all.

Big Brands, Shifting Sentiment

At this point, Heineken, Budweiser, Corona and Sam Adams have all released non-alcoholic beers -- and with polls showing younger consumers are trying to drink less alcohol, it seems like a safe bet that non-alcoholic beers will be one of the marketing trends of the 2020s.

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