Lower alcohol beer sales are expected to reach record numbers this summer thanks to changing consumer habits, tougher drink driving laws and new products.

DB Breweries managing director Andy Routley said lower alcohol or light beer made up around 24 per cent of total beer sales in Australian supermarkets compared with around 5 per cent in New Zealand, however this had risen from just 1 per cent two years ago.

With a growing range of light beers available, Routley said the category would continue to grow.

"It's a very interesting development in how New Zealand consumes beer and it is definitely going to continue," Routley said.


"Whether it gets to the 23 or 24 per cent mark like in Australia remains to be seen - these things do take time but it is heading that way" he said.

Following the introduction of new legislation last December, which dropped the legal blood alcohol limit from 80mg to 50mg per millilitre of blood, light beer sales almost doubled.

It is now the second fastest growth category behind craft beer.

A recent survey by Hospitality New Zealand showed around 80 per cent of hospitality venues reported a drop in sales following the law change - particularly in rural areas.

According to Routley, DB was a leader in the segment with around 70 per cent of the light beer segment.

This spiked after the release of its Heineken Light product in October, which now makes up a fifth of lower alcohol beer sales.

Lion also reported increased sales for its three light beers with lower alcohol tap beer sales up tenfold in the last year.

New Zealand managing director Rory Glass said it was also a reflection on the trend towards health and wellbeing.


"The trend towards moderation is impacting on drinker habits [and although] already apparent, it has accelerated since the changes to the drink drive limits on December 1 last year," he said.

"Consumers are also increasingly interested in health and wellbeing, while still wanting to be able to enjoy a full-flavoured cold beer at the end of the day."

Glass said the company's 2.5 per cent Speight's Mid Ale, which launched late last year, had become one of its largest selling tap beers, with almost three million pints sold.

He said new brewing techniques had improved the taste profile with some of the newer range tasting almost identical to the full strength beers.

An ANZ industry insider report showed that for 2014, beer sales of 2.5 per cent or lower doubled from three million to six million litres while normal beer sales continued to decrease.

Light Beer

• Makes up around 24% of total beer sales in Australia
• Makes up around 5% of total beer sales in New Zealand
• Expected to reach record sale numbers this summer
• Has jumped from 1% of total beer sales to 5% in 2 years