Russia: Russians develop taste for non-alcoholic beer

Russian consumers are turning increasingly towards non-alcoholic beers as a reaction to the restrictive alcohol policy of the Russian government. Last year, the non-alcoholic beer segment jumped 12%, which is even better considering the minus 2% of the overall Russian beer market.

Since 2008, when government tightened regulations including a hike in excise tax and restrictions in advertising, sales and available packaging sizes, the Russian beer market shrank in total 40% and forced 12 breweries to close down production. The remaining breweries still run at reduced capacity.

Therefore non-alcoholic beer is the big hope to most suppliers. The segment accounts for only 1.2% of the Russian beer market, while other countries like Germany already see a 5% share of the overall market up to 13% in Spain.

Even in markets like Russia with a comparatively high consumption of alcohol, non-alcoholic beer has lost its stigma in the last years. The ban on advertising alcoholic beverages and the featuring instead of non-alcoholic beer, especially in conjunction with major events like the Olympics in Sochi 2014 or the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia, help to increase awareness for these products.

Still, “this market is absolutely undeveloped in Russia. We plan to expand our range, we want more,” says Dmitry Shpakov, president of SUN InBev, the Russian unit of AB InBev. The company has non-alcoholic versions of its international brands Bud, Stella Artois and Hoegaarden as well as some local brands. AB InBev boss Carlos Brito last year announced the goal of the parent company AB InBev to sell one out of five beers in 2025 without alcohol.

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