New Zealand breweries are stepping up production of lower alcohol beer to meet the growing thirst from Kiwi consumers.
Brewers Guild of New Zealand president Emma McCashin said increasing demand for low strength drinks was posing a challenge for the brewing industry, with many companies focusing on producing low alcohol beer products alongside their original range.
McCashin said this had partly been driven by the lower drink-drive limit which was introduced last year.
"Beer is already the low alcohol alternative compared with wine or spirits, but in the past couple of years there's been a noticeable spike in demand for beer that's even lower in alcohol content," McCashin said.
"Lowering the drink-drive limits in late 2014 has certainly increased demand for lower alcohol beer, which is an opportunity for brewers to get creative."
According to McCashin, most breweries already produced lower acohol beers with an alcohol volume of between 3 and 4 per cent, but it was the low alcohol - 2.5 per cent or less - that was the most challenging to brew.
"Some breweries have recognised the market potential for low alcohol beer and stepped up development," McCashin said.
"That said, brewing a low-strength beer that tastes good is still exceptionally hard to do because of the time, innovation and investment required. The lower the alcohol content the harder it is to brew."
McCashin said more brewers were seeing the opportunities in low alcohol beer, with Croucher Brewing's 2.5 per cent Lowrider beer now its second best seller.
Sales of low alcohol beer have doubled in the past two years but the category still only accounts for about 5 per cent of all beer sales in New Zealand. In Asutralia, low alcohol beer sales are around 20 per cent of all beer and McCashin said she expected New Zealand's market to follow this trend.
"Brewers have to experiment and take risks," she said. "In some respects, a quality low alcohol beer can define just how good a brewer really is."