- AB InBev added four no- and low-alcohol craft beers to its portfolio this month, according to Adweek. The new products, which will all debut nationwide by spring, are coming from craft brewers the beer giant owns and are designed to respond to growing consumer demand in the sector, the publication reported.
- The new drinks are Good Island's So-Lo with an ABV of 3%, Four Peaks Brewing Co.'s Gilt Lifter with a 3.4% ABV, Breckenridge Brewery's Resolution Blueberry Açai Golden Ale with a 3.5% ABV and Golden Road Brewing's Mango Cart Non-Alcoholic Wheat Ale with an ABV of less than 0.5%.
- Adam Warrington, AB InBev's vice president of corporate social responsibility, said the company plans to have 20% of its global beer volumes coming from no- and low-alcohol beers by 2025.
AB InBev is introducing these new low-alcohol craft beers during Dry January, a month when some people abstain from alcohol or limit their consumption following holiday celebrations. It could be a smart move for the alcohol giant to introduce them now since more consumers may be on the lookout for nonalcoholic or low-alcohol beverages made by craft or other brewers to keep on a similar track all year long.
This launch also makes financial sense for the company. As beer volumes have declined, U.S. bottled low- and no-alcohol beverages are projected to jump about 32% between 2018 and 2022 — three times their growth in the previous five years — according to IWSR data cited by Bon Appetit. The alcohol industry tracking firm told the publication consumers between 25 and 44 are especially trying to limit their alcohol intake, and some have eliminated it completely.
For AB InBev, the world's largest beer company, this presents opportunities to tap into the trend with new products, raise new revenue and attract new customers. The company signaled a move into the sector by naming a chief nonalcoholic beverages officer in 2018. While its nonalcoholic brands, including O'Doul's, Budweiser Prohibition, Busch NA and the 0.05% ABV Beck's Blue, comprised about 10% of the company's business at that point, AB InBev intends to double its percentage of nonalcoholic and low-alcohol beers in the next five years.
AB InBev isn't alone in this trend. Several other large beer companies now have products in the sector, with Heineken launching its 0.0% MAXX in 2017 and Coors offering its own non-alcoholic brand. Guinness owner Diageo has Open Gate Pure Brew, and Carlsberg has been making no-alcohol beers since 2015. Heineken also recently released a January Dry Pack, containing 31 cans of Heineken 0.0.
AB InBev has been busy purchasing craft breweries in the past few years, adding Goose Island Beer, Devils Backbone, Wicked Weed Brewing and Karbach Brewing to its portfolio. In August, the company acquired Platform Beer, a fast-growing regional brewery founded in Cleveland in 2014. And, after initially deciding not to, AB InBev pledged in November to buy the remaining 68.8% stake in the Oregon-based Craft Brew Alliance it didn't already own for $321 million. That deal brought eight craft brands into the fold, including Kona Brewing, Widmer Brothers and Redhook Brewery.
AB InBev invested more than $130 million in these craft partners from 2016 to 2019, helping them hire nearly 1,000 workers, open new facilities and produce more beer. Developing the craft segment could help the brewing giant in a difficult alcohol marketplace as consumer demands shift. Its flagship Budweiser and Bud Light brands have seen sales slide as consumers flock toward spirits, craft brews and Mexican and other imported beers. Focusing on no- and low-alcohol beer could help AB InBev attract younger consumers.
These four new craft beers from AB InBev's craft partners span a variety of consumer interests and could appeal across a spectrum of tastes, ages and drinking occasions. So-Lo contains just 98 calories, while Gilt Lifter has 99 calories, 7 grams of carbs and may fit into a keto diet. Resolution Blueberry Açai is electrolyte-infused, and Mango Cart is advertised as light and nonalcoholic.
Focusing on the craft beer sector with disparate products may turn out to be a solid strategy, given the latest sales statistics. Preliminary data from an IWSR Drinks Market Analysis show while domestic beer volumes fell 3.6% in 2019, imported beer was up 3.1%, and craft beer consumption increased 4.1%. However, low- and no-alcohol beer outpaced them all last year with a jump of 6.6%.