After initially launching in early 2017, Heineken’s first non-alcoholic beer has expanded to more than 30 global markets and is now officially coming to the US. Though not as popular a trend as it is in Europe, the low-ABV and no-alcohol US beer and wine categories are growing.
Heineken 0.0 is an alcohol-free malt beverage brewed using only natural ingredients, with 69 calories per bottle. Blue labeling on the bottle – a color often associated with non-alcoholic varieties – is used create a point of differentiation from Heineken’s classic green branding.
Heineken 0.0 initially launched in the Netherlands in May 2017 after two years of development and quickly expanded to 16 markets across Europe. In summer 2017 the Heineken brand reported a 7% growth figure for HY2017 and credited Heineken 0.0’s early success as a main factor.
The ‘beer’ starts out with traditional beer ingredients like water, malted barley and hop extract. Then it’s twice-brewed and fermented with Heineken’s A-yeast before alcohol is removed in a ‘natural’ process. The final step is to blend the beverage to achieve a “fruity flavor and slight malty notes.”
Willem van Waesberghe, Global Craft and Brew Master at Heineken, called it “the most challenging brewing process of his career.”
“Removing alcohol from regular 5% Heineken would have been easy, but it wouldn’t deliver the same premium beer taste that Heineken is known for,” he said.
“Heineken 0.0 is brewed from scratch and has a perfectly balanced taste with refreshing fruity notes and soft, malty finish.”
More than a soft drink, less than a cocktail
The drink’s new campaign platform #NowYouCan is based on the premise that consumers are able to do more without having to sacrifice drinking beer.
Jonnie Cahill, chief marketing officer at Heineken USA, said “For the US, the time has come for an innovation that disrupts the category and offers a new take on how and when people enjoy beer.
“Heineken 0.0 brings an incredible beer taste to the non-alcoholic space and opens a world of opportunity for people to come together and enjoy a brew that expands drinking occasions—not limits them.”
It’s part of a global health and wellness movement that has consumers moving away from high calorie, sugary drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. Consumer rejection of sodas and juices has fueled bottled water to become the no. 1 soft drink category in the world.
Healthy diets have also caused a decline in the drinking of calorie-heavy beer and sugar-laden cocktails. There’s an increased interest in mocktails and low-ABV drinks, for those looking for more than a soft drink but less than a cocktail.
Trending away with Gen Z
Stalwarts in the no/low alcohol beer market like O’Doul’s and Beck’s Blue are now joined by new brewmasters that have perfected the process beyond simply stripping beer of its alcohol content: a process which can leave the drink overly sweet and syrupy.
The improved taste is appealing to young people who are trending away from high alcohol consumption. Mintel reported in 2018 that teens and young adults in the Gen Z generation are concerned with calorie and sugar content, potentially impacting their relationship with alcohol.
They may not turn to it as much as a choice for ‘teen rebellion’ and are already using less alcohol and tobacco than previous generations.
In the UK, the non-alcoholic beverages market has grown 15% in the last two years, while sales in Australia have grown 57% in the last 5 years. And the overall non-alcoholic wine and beer market is anticipated to record a 7.6% CAGR from 2018 to 2024.
Launches of alcohol-free wines from startups O.Vine, Botonique and supermarket chain Aldi indicate a burgeoning sector with demand and room to grow. And the explosion of cannabis-infused beverages in 2018 is poised to poach more even more young consumers away from traditional alcohol as the drug is legalized and accepted into the mainstream.