The Danish Carlsberg Group is increasingly betting on non-alcoholic beer and beverages. Cees ‘t Hart, since 2015 chief executive officer of the world’s third-largest brewing group, told the Financial Times that the wants to step up efforts in alcohol-free beer as this segment could triple to 15% market share in its very important market in Western Europe. Annual sales are already increasing by 20-25% in most markets, he said, and he expects the category to grow five times faster than normal beer.
The group is well positioned, as it already offers non-alcoholic versions of most of its beer brands such as Carlsberg, Tuborg, Kronenbourg as well as for Somersby cider. However, in January Carlsberg UK replaced the existing Carlsberg 0.0% Alcohol Free brand by Carlsberg Nordic, an alcohol-free pilsner without citing the reason for this move (inside.beer, 10.1.2020).
“People were already more health conscious. That message is even more reinforced after coronavirus,” Mr t’Hart was quoted by the FT. “That is where we have an advantage in our portfolio. We are preparing the next generation of alcohol-free drinks . . . that is interesting for people that do not like beer or the alcohol taste.”
Carlsberg isn't the only brewer to focus on products outside of the traditional beer range. In fact, other brewers have long since recognized the opportunities that lie outside its traditional markets. Trevor Stirling, analyst at Bernstein, even sees Heineken in the lead. In his view the Dutch brewing group appears to be having here “a little bit more traction”.
However, market leader AB InBev was also very long reluctant to step into this market. It took until July of this year before the company unveiled the first zero alcohol brew for its flagship brand Budweiser, dubbed Budweiser Zero (inside.beer, 29.7.2020).
Especially Carlsberg, who has a large part of its business in mature markets, is well advised to focus on segments that are still growing also in markets like Western Europe.
“Are there opportunities for growth for Carlsberg?”asks Mr. t’Hart. And he gives himself the answer “A wholehearted yes. Covid could facilitate a faster development of health consciousness that could translate into this kind of drink,” he adds.