Low and no-alcohol beer is picking up in popularity with traditional beer drinkers.

Consumption of low to mid-strength beer grew from 3.5 million litres to 7.64 million litres last year. Growth in the category has increased year on year since drink driving laws changed in 2014, Brewers Association of New Zealand executive director Dylan Firth said.

Last year, the under 1 per cent alcohol beer category grew about 20 per cent.

In the 2014/15 year the 1-2.5% alcohol beer category grew 40 per cent year on year; it went on to increase by 80 per cent the following year and then by 75 per cent the year after.


Firth said the increase in consumption could partly be attributed to more no-alcohol beers on the market.

Auckland-based brewing company DB Breweries anticipates it will sell 1.5 million bottles of Heineken 0.0, its 0% alcohol beer, over the three months of summer.

DB Breweries sales director Paul Millward said low and no-alcohol beer had picked up in popularity with beer drinkers, and sales of its Heineken 0.0 which it launched in August had since doubled its forecast.

"Some people just love a beer but they don't want alcohol and that's where we've seen it be really successful," Millward said.

While he could not say if DB planned to introduce other no-alcohol beer brands in the near future, he said the brewery was "always" looking at opportunities within the category.

"There's a great opportunity. What we have learnt though is it's all about doing what's best behind the brand, and it's all about the liquid. So we'd only do more products if we got the liquid right."

Millward said DB saw low and no-alcohol beers as a competitive advantage.

DB spent close to $3 million launching Heineken 0.0 in August. This summer will be the beer brand's first in the New Zealand market. Figures from the company show one in every 10 Heineken sold is either Heineken 0.0 or Heineken Light.


"If you look globally, within two years, one in five beers sold will be low or no-alcohol, and there's no reason why New Zealand will be different," he said.

"What we're seeing no matter where it is in the country, from Gore to Queenstown to the Auckland waterfront to traditional country bars to fine dining, zero is going equally well everywhere."

Overall, combining all categories, the volume of alcohol consumption fell 1.2 per cent to 289 million litres in the year ended December 2017. The numbers of standard drink equivalent per person also dropped - by one per cent - to 2 drinks each per day in the same year, according to Stats NZ.

Alcohol consumption in the last 10 years is down around 5 per cent, Firth said.

"Instead of drinking the volumes, people are drinking better value ... instead of buying a dozen beers they might buy a six pack at a higher price point," he said.

Firth said he expected more low and no-alcohol beer brands to enter the market next year given the increasing uptake and summer being when more people opted for a light strength beer. "I don't think 0% will take over but it will definitely be a growth part of the market."