Over the last decade, there has been a trend away from sugary beverages and toward a cleaner label. The global pandemic has accelerated this trend, especially in the adult beverage market. Part of the better-for-you beverage space, non-alcoholic (NA) beer is skyrocketing in popularity. Global Market Insights predicts that NA beer market revenue will reach $29 billion by 2026, with NA beer sales in North America alone surpassing $6.4 billion by 2026.
It was health and wellness that inspired my co-founder and me to start creating NA craft beer. In 2016, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. After a year and a half of successful treatment, we wanted to celebrate with craft beer sans alcohol. We were nondrinkers before, but now it seemed unacceptable not to be able to enjoy craft beer just because we did not want the effects of alcohol.
The NA beer market saw some growth in 2020, despite the pandemic. Research estimates show U.S NA beer sales were up 38%, with $188 million in sales. This shift to more health-conscious shopping is now being reflected in consumer buying behavior, and retailers are meeting that demand. Grocery stores and supermarket chains are expanding their better-for-you options like NA beer to meet these consumer preferences. Publications like Men’s Health, Forbes, Bon Appetit and others regularly cover trending NA brands.
NA beer and beverages are used for a variety of reasons — as workout recovery beverages, social drinks when you are not “drinking,” and daytime relaxers when you crave the taste of beer but don’t want the effects of alcohol. Consumers are turning to this market for a variety of reasons, and brands should be prepared to capitalize on this trend.
Here are a couple of things to consider for brands entering the NA beverage space.
As consumers are shifting their spending habits toward healthier options, beverage makers should make sure they are transparent in their nutritional labeling. In the beer industry, alcoholic beverages are not required to have nutritional labels. However, in this new frontier with NA beer, it’s important that NA breweries opt to label appropriately. One thing that is often left off labeling is sugar content. It’s important to include how much sugar is in your beverage so consumers can make informed decisions.
In order to build consumer trust and stay fully transparent, I’d recommend getting your testing done at a third-party certified lab for nutritional labeling, as well as any other health benefits that your beverage has, such as being gluten-reduced.
As the landscape has developed over the last couple of years, consumers have realized that true craft options in the NA sector are possible. While some retailers and distributors have been on-trend, many are just starting to learn about the demand. The learning curve of suppliers is behind the demand of consumers. Stores are building out their craft NA sections slowly. It’s important for brands to not give up in their conversations with retailers. It isn’t a zero-sum game. Like the alcoholic craft beer industry broke the boundaries of the beer beverage, the craft NA category will also expand. It would be great to see multiple NA craft options on every menu and not just the old mass brewery lager.
The popularity of NA beer may have been accelerated by the global pandemic, but it has been trending for quite a while, and as consumers get back into restaurants, bars and events, it will be popping up in places you might not expect. Brands looking to make a name for themselves as this market continues to grow should focus on transparency and meeting consumer demands for more health-conscious NA beverages.