Low and no-alcohol beer defies Covid sales slump

UK beer sales are forecast to fall by 13.4% in 2020, but low and no-alcohol beers appear resilient, with a decline of just 0.5%, according to IWSR Drinks Market Analysis.

Low and no alcohol beers are proving more resilient during the pandemic than full strength beer

“The low and no beer revolution is really starting to take shape,” said John Storm, head of buying at Majestic, where low and no beer sales have increased by over 50% in volume year-on-year.

“For us, the key has been finding beers that do not compromise on provenance or taste. A no-alcohol beer no longer has to be the last resort of the designated driver, but is instead a standout drink in its own right, or a great food pairing,” said Storm.

A new wave of quality-driven producers using meticulous production methods is a key factor in the categories’ success, which is bolstered by current consumer health trends.

“I think the quality has got better and a lot of bars and restaurants now have a no-alcohol slot on the menu,” explained Biercraft founder Nick Trower, who credits independent producers such as Lucky Saint with increasing demand. Trower expects to see further growth in both low and no-alcohol categories.

Lucky Saint, an unfiltered non-alcoholic lager and the first of its category to be served on draught, has seen net revenue increase by 300% year-on-year and substantial gains in both on and off-trade.

“80% of the UK are now actively moderating their alcohol intake and are looking for quality alcohol-free options,” said Lucky Saint managing director Emma Heal.

“People are looking to make positive, healthier choices and Covid-19 has accelerated that even further,” she said.

Global trends mirror those in the UK, with IWSR Drinks Market Analysis reporting a projected decline of 9.2% in total beer sales this year across the 19 major markets covered by their report.

By contrast, it predicts sales of low and no-alcohol beer will remain flat. The volume share of low and no-alcohol beer, vs total beer, in 2019 in the UK was 2.7% according to IWSR, which predicts that by 2024 it will have increased to 3.3%.

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