Carlsberg hopes to make no-booze beer a ‘credible’ alternative with the launch of new variants

Carlsberg UK is hoping to make alcohol-free beer as relevant and credible an alternative to alcohol as tea or soft drinks through the launch of two new variants under its San Miguel brand as it looks to reach more occasions and reflect changing consumer tastes.

The Carlsberg-owned Spanish brand has launched two new premium variants, San Miguel 0.0% and San Miguel 0.0% Limon, to its range, beers which it says have a “subtle roasted flavour” with Limon featuring real lemon juice and “subtle malt and hop notes”.

While the products have so far only been introduced in the off trade, 0.0% will launch in February in Tesco and Asda as well as convenience stores, followed by 0.0% Limon in Asda and convenience stores in March.

Healthy habits driving category

The move is part of the company’s effort to tap into healthier habits of consumers, which it believes are driving the category.

David Scott, director of brand and insight for Carlsberg UK, told Marketing Week: “There’s a trend towards consumers being more aware of how much alcohol they drink, and many are trying not to drink from Monday to Thursday.

“That doesn’t mean beer shouldn’t be as relevant as a soft drink, or even a cup of tea in occasions where alcohol isn’t a suitable choice, and we’re trying to make 0.0% a credible alternative.”

He also says the company is reacting to new legislation in Scotland on drinking and driving limits, which it says have resulted in more interest in non-alcoholic beers.

“Going and having a pint at the pub on the way home from work is not necessarily acceptable any more given the new legislation, so non-alcoholic beers are more essential within the category going forward.”

Finding the right flavour

Scott says the way to ensure the success of a non-alcoholic beer is by maintaining its flavour during the brewing process, something that he believes previous no-alcohol beers, such as direct competitor Beck’s Blue Alcohol Free, have struggled to do.

Steve Livens, beer sommelier at the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) told Marketing Week: “If you look at traditional non-alcoholic beers, they weren’t the most flavoursome products and generally were too sweet. The products we’re seeing today are worlds away from how they were. Production methods have changed, and while it’s a complicated process to make non-alcoholic beers, a range of ingredients have been introduced as well.”

Livens says the category is seeing a trend towards fruit flavours to balance out the loss of alcohol, something San Miguel is trying to tap with its Limon variant according to Scott. Carlsberg has previously looked towards the fruit flavour trend with the likes of Carlsberg Citrus and Blackcurrant.

Research from Mintel in November 2014 showed that of six key European consumer markets, San Miguel’s home country of Spain had the highest consumption rate of non-alcoholic beers, with 60% of Spanish beer-buyers purchasing non-alcoholic been in 2013, a figure that rose to 69% with consumers aged 45 to 54.

The company is hoping to replicate this attitude in the UK, where 14% of beer buyers purchased non-alcoholic beer in 2013, though this rose to 26% among 18-34 year olds.

Despite these figures, non-alcoholic beer only accounted for 3% of beer launches in 2014 leading up to November, with 4% in the UK.

To tap this opportunity, Scott says launches into the non-alcoholic category for Carlsberg won’t stop with San Miguel, with further innovation planned for the summer of 2015.

“Research suggests that alcohol free beers will play an important role in attracting different demographics into the beer category in the future,” Scott says. “Consumers are looking for more premium brands, so we’re breaking out of the mainstream and giving them a credible alternative with no alcohol.”