Conscious consumers are increasingly choosing low-carb and low/no alcohol beer products in New Zealand, says the head honcho of a big brewery.
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 one in every 10 beers bought (8.9 per cent) is either a low carb or low or no alcohol product. Low carb beer has grown 41 per cent compared with last year, and low/no alcohol has grown by 14 per cent.
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 per cent 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 a New World supermarket, remarks the increasing sales around low carb and low/no alcohol beer "continues to surprise me".
So who is drinking these products? Simons says 48 per cent of people say they are trying to minimise their carb consumption — skewing slightly female (50 per cent) vs male (45 per cent).
Another trend across the alcohol category, Kiwis say they are drinking less compared with five 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.
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 process.
— Rachel Grunwell is a wellness expert and author of the book Balance: Food, Health + Happiness. Find out more about Rachel via inspiredhealth.co.nz. Follow Rachel on Instagram (@rachelgrunwell) or InspiredHealthNZ's Facebook, InspiredHealthNZ.