“Nothing ever tasted better than a cold alcohol free beer on a beautiful afternoon with nothing to look forward to than more of the same.”

Blake Gladman, Strategy & Insight Director

This week has felt like the summer is starting to wake up from its annual slumber and stretch its legs in preparation for the months ahead. There’s nothing like the shining beacon in the sky to make one reach for a cold beer and dial life down to a more moderate level. Or perhaps an alcohol free beer?

Now I like a beer as much as the next person, as longs as that next person isn’t Oliver Reed. However, recently I’ve been looking to reduce my alcohol consumption. I’m not the only one. In fact, 37% of us our planning on reducing our alcohol intake in 2019 (source: Ontrade Outlook 2019). This rises to as high as 45% for 25-34-year-olds. An age bracket of which I can now only look at all misty-eyed, and 50% for the Gen Z age group (18-24). Traditionally, socialising for those aged 18-24 conformed to the fantasy of sex, drugs and rock n roll. Now there’s a new addiction for Generation Z –health and fitness. When asked ‘after a day’s work where would you rather go – the gym or the pub’, 49% of Gen Z choose to sweat pints rather than drink them. A quarter of pubs have closed in the past 35 years. Those that survive largely do so through their food offerings. In contrast, gyms are booming.

Sports and nutrition brands are booming

The UK private health and fitness market is now worth £3.2bn. Growing 20% between 2015 and 2018, according to Mintel. Opportunities certainly lie ahead for associate nutrition. With the sports food and drink industry growing by a reported 12% up to £77m in 2017-18. Then we have the rapid growth of protein bars in UK retail. The snacking category is worth around £18bn in the UK. However, an increasing number of shoppers are looking to transform their snacking habits by turning to healthier options. The biggest success story has been global sports and nutrition brand, Grenade. Who have just recently reported to be outselling all other chocolate bar brands in UK supermarkets. There most popular brand, ‘Grenade Carb Killa’, has a 31% share of the total market and has driven 78% of the growth.

A marathon session!

A pint of premium lager or craft beer is around 300-350 calories. In context, that’s the equivalent of running for 30 minutes to burn it off. Sounds pretty ominous when you consider that you’d have to do a marathon every time you go out for a session and sink 8 pints! So, of course, there is the health benefit to reducing your alcohol intake. The spanner in the works, the fly in the chardonnay is that I quite like the taste of beer. However, recently I feel like I’ve discovered the elixir of youth and it has come to me in the form of alcohol-free beer.

Of course, alcohol free beer isn’t a new invention. In fact, it first appeared in the USA in 1919 as a direct result of the prohibition laws. Turns out I’m not the only one who just likes the taste of it! Not since those speak-easy days have we quite seen an alcohol-free beer boom like we’re seeing now. Alcohol-free variants are becoming big business for major beer brands. Data from Nielsen shows that sales of non-alcoholic beer grew 37% in 2018 to £51.8m. Sales have doubled since 2015. With demand growing it’s a safe bet to assume that sales will continue to grow at exponential rates for the category. With many of the leading national and craft brands all releasing new products into the category, 2019 will be a big year for the 0%.

Best sellers

The best-selling alcohol-free brands are Beck’s Blue, Heineken 0.0 and San Miguel 0.0. It’s not just the major labels taking advantage of this trend though. BrewDog, the craft beer conglomerate, already have their ‘Nanny State’ offering. But have recently launched Punk AF to join their range of low/no alcohol SKUs. I also recently took a trip to a local craft beer shop and found a strong range of low/no alcohol options. I picked up these three to try and must say I was amazed by the quality and taste.

lucky saint, infinite session alcohol free beersWe’ve come a long way with alcohol-free beer. If these are the taste of things to come then I, for one, am looking forward to enjoying a few more ice-cold beers on a sunny afternoon with a slightly cleaner conscience than before.

So far my favourite AF beer, of which I’ve tasted, is Infinite Session APA (available here if you’re interested https://www.infinitesession.com), with Lucky Saint coming a close second (https://luckysaint.co). If you have recently tried some top-notch alcohol-free beers then I’d love to hear about them and give them a go myself. Get in touch and let me know.

Is it time for a beer yet?