Almost two years after Heineken 0.0, a non-alcoholic lager, was first presented in Europe and rolled out in more than 30 countries, (inside.beer, 14.5.2017) Heineken’s “latest innovation” will now also be available for U.S. customers as of January 2019.
The product, which is pronounced Heineken zero zero, has no alcohol at all and contains 75 calories per 12 ounce. The new brew is an international collaboration of Heineken and was co-developed by Heineken’s unit in Austria. It comes packaged in cans and bottles where the brand's iconic green label has been turned blue – the color associated with the alcohol-free category.
Heineken took some time to bring the product to the U.S. market. While in other markets like Europe non-alcoholic beers took profit from a growing trend towards health and wellness and gained already momentum, the U.S. was a little bit behind. Canada was already in January the first country in North America to launch Heineken 0.0. It was not before July 3 that Heineken gained approval from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau on labels for 12-ounce bottles of Heineken 0.0.
The product, once on the market, will go head-to-head on the one side with O'Doul's, a non-alcohol malt beverages from Anheuser Busch (which still contains 0.4 percent alcohol according to the brewer’s website) and the country's current low-carb and low-calorie choice, Michelob Ultra's (also from Anheuser Busch) on the other side.
The other big U.S. competitor, Molson Coors, already offers 18 low or no-alcohol beers in 10 countries including the U.S. where it sells its Coors Non-Alcoholic and Sharp’s brands. The company also said it had plans to offer quality no-alcohol and low-alcohol choices (3.5 percent or below ABV) in all of the European markets in which the company sells beer by 2025.
"Removing alcohol from regular 5% Heineken would have been easy, but it wouldn't deliver the best tasting alcohol-free beer. Heineken 0.0 is brewed from scratch and has a perfectly balanced taste with refreshing fruity notes and soft malty body," said Willem van Waesberghe, global craft and brew master at Heineken. The Dutch brewer removes the alcohol but then adds back in the fruity aromas that are stripped out along with the alcohol. "It’s a little different, but it’s really close to a good beer. I’m talking as a brewer. As a consumer, I’m really, really happy about it," van Waesberghe said.
The new product is not thought to replace a regular beer but to give the beer drinker a choice when he does not want to drink alcohol.
"It's not about a replacement strategy, it's complementary," Jonnie Cahill, chief marketing officer of Heineken USA expained. "Sometimes I drink Heineken. Sometimes I drink Heineken 0.0. ... So what we see happening is that this is in addition to our own Heineken position. We see this as an 'and' not an 'instead of purchase.'"