Cheers to Low Beers

By Rachel Grunwell

Conscious consumers are increasingly choosing low carb and low/no alcohol beer products in New Zealand, says the head honcho of a big brewery. And the owner of the New World Mt Roskill supermarket says he has noticed the trend in store too.

By the way, it’s not just chicks who want the beer alternatives; Blokes order it just as much. Actually, millennials are driving the trend.

According to Neilson statistics, nearly 1 in every 10 beers bought (8.9%) are either a low carb or low/no alcohol product. Low carb beer has grown 41% compared with last year, and low/no alcohol has grown by 14%.

DB Breweries managing director Peter Simons says “conscious consumers” are driving what he calls “the better for me category”. 

He predicts this category will be 20% of beer sales in New Zealand in 10 years.

“This category is growing fast,” he says, noting he saw the growth first in Europe and knew Kiwi drinking habits would follow.

Simons says the Heineken brand (DB is owned by the Heineken company) reached its highest global growth in over 10 years last year. This was led by demand for its new product Heineken 0.0 (zero ABV) . In New Zealand, DB sold 2.2 million bottles of Heineken 0.0 since the beer’s launch in August last year.

Beer connoisseur, Aaron Scanes, remarks on the taste of the 0.0 Heineken compared with the brand’s original beer: “If you blind taste tested them then I think a lot of people would struggle to taste the difference between them”.

Scanes, who owns New World Mt Roskill supermarket , remarks the increasing sales around low carb and low/no alcohol beer  “continues to surprise me”.

Aaron Scanes with some “better for me” category beer products at his store, New World Mt Roskill. He says this category of beer has been selling well. The top seller in recent months from this category is the Heineken 0.0 product.

So who is drinking these products?

Simons says 48% of people say they are trying to minimise their carb consumption – skewing slightly female (50%) vs male (45%).

Another trend across the alcohol category, Kiwis say they are drinking less compared with 5 years ago. Men and women are changing their drinking to similar extents.

Simons says younger drinkers (aged 17-25-years) are choosing more consciously. The company aims to cater to new styles of beverages to react to this market. Simons says the zero alcohol beer isn’t cheaper to make. They have to double ferment it, remove the alcohol, and it takes longer.

Rachel Grunwell with Dave Eaton, a Heineken master brewer at DB Breweries giving Rachel a tour of the brewery. They’re pictured in the old copper part of the brewery. It’s all now stainless steel. The factory has machines that spit out bottles on machine lines almost non-stop.

Meanwhile, low carb and low/no alcohol beer still has calories. The Heineken 0.0 may have no alcohol, but there’s about a teaspoon of malt sugars in a bottle, compared to less than 1g per bottle in the Heineken original and light varieties. This is because sugar is what ferments to produce alcohol, and given Heineken 0.0 doesn’t contain alcohol not all sugar is fermented during the brewing process.

* Rachel Grunwell is an award-winning journalist. She works too as a blogger and is currently working with the team at New World Mt Roskill, inspiring Kiwis to save time by shopping online. Click here to check out their store and shop online.

Rachel is a writing geek (wellness columnist for Good magazine, and Indulge magazine – and the latter goes online on the Herald every week). Rachel is also a wellness expert & author of the book Balance: Food, Health + Happiness which boasts 30 experts who share science-backed advice on how to live healthier and happier. The approach of her book is about enjoying all things in life “balance”, not perfectionism. And yes, she enjoys the odd beer, wine and chocolate too. To find out more about the book Balance click HERE.

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