Embracing alcohol-free beers
A growing public awareness of the hazards of drinking to excess has couple with great strides in taste and quality of low-and-no alcohol beer have led to such brews enjoying a boost this year both from brewers and from the on trade. Bill Lumley finds booze-free beer can help your bottom line
Non-alcoholic beer has finally gone mainstream. In April Heineken began supplying its alcohol-free beers to pubs and inns and, as we go to press, for two days this summer, UK supermarket chain Sainsbury is preparing to launch a pop-up pub in central London dedicated to exclusively serving low or no alcohol drinks.
As the acceptability of non-alcoholic beer has reached cruising height, the opportunity is now ripe for inns and pubs to cash in on this revenue stream, bolstering their customer dwell time as well as their spend.
Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association tells Luxury Bed & Breakfast magazine: “The boom in the popularity of low and no alcohol products is very encouraging. Significant investment and innovation by UK brewers, along with great promotions and marketing by pubs, has meant that low and no alcohol beer has been central to this growth.”
She stresses that the skill and craft required to brew low and alchohol-free beers is no different to that needed to produce normal strength beers. “This means they taste great and quality is not compromised. With a bigger range of low and no alcohol beers than ever before, there has never been a better time to give them a go!”
Low and no alcohol statistics
- The low and no alcohol beer market in the UK grew by 26% in 2017
- From 2013 – 2017, the low and no alcohol beer market in the UK grew by 150%
- Approximately 43 million pints of low or no alcohol beer are now sold annually in the UK
- Research conducted by The Portman Group in January 2019 showed that nearly a quarter (24%) of British Drinkers have either already switched some of their drinking to low alcohol alternatives or are considering doing so
Source: British Beer and Pub Association/BBPA
Meanwhile the British Institute of Innkeeping has thrown its weight of approval behind the somewhat incongruous movement towards booze-free beers in a boozer. BII spokesperson Molly Davis tells Luxury Bed & Breakfast magazine: “Anything that innkeepers can do to diversify and provide a better offer for their customers is certainly a positive thing, not just from a health point of view but also making sure they as a business are catering for every type of customer. It’s no longer that case of just sitting back and hoping that punters come in through the door.
“We at the BII are definitely in support of bars selling low and no-alcohol beers, of which there are now many that taste fantastic,” she adds.
In the past couple of years there has been a strong growth in volume traded by inns and pubs. For example the Royal Victoria & Bull in Dartford, page 38, stocks Becks Blue.
With no let-up in advice to the general public to lower alcohol consumption it makes good commercial sense for inns and pubs to accommodate both a taste for social life and alcohol-free days.
The most recent annual Drinkaware Monitor reveals that whilst men are more likely than women to be drinking over the low risk drinking guidelines of 14 units a week and to have attempted to cut down on their drinking, they are less likely to be doing so by using moderation techniques, such as having more drink-free days.
The Lancet Report on global alcohol shows that while adult alcohol consumption has increased in low-and middle-income countries, it is still the better-off countries, particularly in Europe, where people are drinking the most. While average UK consumption decreased from 12.3 litres in 2010 to 11.4 litres in 2017, the report says, this is still almost double the global average of 6.5 litres in 2017.
John Hadingham is managing director of St Peters, which recently launched his Without range, Without Gold, Without Original and its latest Without Elderberry and Raspberry, which it claims is the first zero alcohol fruit beer on the market.
St Peter’s is now in its third year with Mitchells & Butlers and sales continue to grow, he says. “We have just secured another listing with a National operator along with a host of independent listings,” he says.
The brewey is seeing growth in non-alcholic beer sales across a wide range of age groups. John tells Luxury Bed & Breakfast: “Although this has been predominantly driven by health reasons, it’s fair to say the younger consumers are concerned with well-being and fitness, and are driving a greater proportion of the growth, whereas some older consumers are moving to teetotal ways for dietary needs or reasons linked to medication and illness.”
One reason for the comparatively slow take-up of non-alcoholic beers by pub-goers was a stigma attached to it, and that has now gone, he says. “Many people will remember the poor quality low/ zero alcohol products of the past. But times and attitudes are changing very quickly indeed. With so many great products now available, momentum is growing fast. National campaigns such as Heineken 0.0 do much to support this, and it’s a truly exciting time!”
The UK’s major retailers are fulfilling the role of supporting this awareness of non-alcoholic beers, he says, by driving more range and supporting this with strong promotions to drive trial and awareness.
But he stresses: “We still see much of the on trade being slow to cotton on to the opportunity. As a predominantly teetotal myself, I still find it hard to find zero-alcohol options in most venues. And when one is found, the serve and experience compared against if I had asked for a craft beer for example is very different.”
Non-alcoholic beer is now a highly competitive category, and with many brewers working hard to deliver, quality will naturally improve, says John. Moreover, consumer motivations for great-tasting products is making is way across all categories, he says. “It’s no longer acceptable to have the token low or zero alcohol beer in the fridge behind your bar.
Production methods around dealcoholisation and skills around zero and low alcohol beers has certainly developed at a rate of knots. One only has to sample products such as those from Adnams, Brooklyn and Nirvana to see the advancements against the products we suffered just a few years ago,” he says.
“For our part, we brew to zero, nothing is removed. A tricky process but one that was driven a few years ago for our owners’ need to go teetotal due to health reasons.”
Sales of non-alcoholic beers are finally taking off in the on trade, he says. “We have had some great gains, predominantly in packaged format. Competition for tap space is fierce but we see a great rate of sales from the fridge.”
He concludes: “For us, menu inclusion, staff-training and point-of-sale materials are essential to drive serve and awareness.
Low and no-alcoholic beers
|Brewdog||Nanny State pale ale||0.5%|
|Big Drop||Citra IPA||0.5%|
|Adnams||Ghost Ship Alcohol Free||0.5%|
|Harvey’s||Low Alcohol Sussex Best||0.5%|
|Thornbridge||Big Easy pale ale||0.5%|
|San Miguel||0.0 pilsner lager||0%|
|Guinness||Kaliber pale lager||0.05%|
|Brooklyn Brewery||Special Effects||0.4%|
|Greene King||Low Alcohol Old Speckled Hen||0.5%|
|St Peter’s||Without range||0%|
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