Alcohol-free beer continues its upward march

Beck’s Blue remains the top dog in the non-alcoholic beer sector, but it has seen its market share eroded by a plethora of newcomers to the category.

The AB-Inbev brand suffered a modest 1.9% sales decline in the year to December (IRI), but it still accounts for more than a third of alcohol-free beer sales.

Second placed Bavaria also saw sales drop, by 9.8%, as leading brewers launched rival brands. 

Heineken 0.0, backed by a huge marketing campaign, is now the third bestselling alcohol-free beer after enjoying sales growth of 182.6% in the past year.

Another AB-Inbev brand, Budweiser Prohibition, is up to fourth after huge growth and Brewdog’s Nanny State is fifth after enjoying a 54.3% sales rise.

Marston’s Erdinger non-alcoholic beer is sixth and the same company’s Warsteiner Fresh is 10th.

Alcohol-free ale St Peter’s Without has gatecrashed the top 10 by taking eighth place, sandwiched between San Miguel 0.0 and Cobra Zero.

The dynamic category is up 33% year-on-year, according to IRI, following a strong Christmas. Kantar reported that sales of alcohol-free beer rose by £7.6 million over the 12-week period leading up to and including Christmas, while the category typically enjoys a sales spike at this time of year, suggesting that retailers should think about backing it. 

Another category that Marston’s is urging buyers to champion is what it calls “crafted PBA”, featuring beers that take on the hallmarks of craft beer but are packaged in classic 50cl bottles. 

“Crafted PBA is ale that sits in the 50cl PBA fixture, taking some of the design and style cues – such as IPAs with hopped flavour – from craft beer into an accessible format for non-craft drinkers,” said insight executive James Hodgkinson. 

“They provide the link between more traditional PBA brands and craft ale.

“Crafted PBA is showing impressive growth of 50% over the past two years, and is appealing to a younger, more affluent demographic. 

“Consumer tastes are becoming more adventurous and there is a blurring of lines between ale and craft beer.”

Bottled ale is down 0.9% in the past year, according to IRI, while canned ale is down 5.3%.

Premium bottled lager is up 10% on the back of the heatwave and World Cup in the summer, with premium canned lager ahead by 11.6%.

Despite the fall in sales of canned ale, canned craft beer is up 88.9%, with Brewdog Elvis Juice leading the charge.