By Franklin Alli
“A lot of people don’t want to give up on alcohol, but they want to be a lot more balanced and a lot more sensible. That’s the way the market’s going.”
That’s how Jonny Forsyth, global drinks analyst at researcher Mintel Group Ltd, described the downward shift in the making of beers with lower alcoholics content by brewers around the world, in an efforts to satisfying teeming consumers and to boosting sales.
Consider for examples: AB InBev, the world’s largest brewer, in April last year, started offering Australians a lower-alcohol version of Corona, the country’s best-selling foreign beer.
In that country, some full-strength brews have alcohol levels approaching 6 percent. Midstrength beers typically contain 3 percent to 4 percent. Corona Ligera contains 3.2 percent alcohol, almost a third less kick than the original’s 4.5 percent.
AB InBev, which makes alcohol-free Budweiser, plans to have low- and nonalcoholic products make up a fifth of its global beer volumes by 2025.
In China, the world’s biggest consumer market, weaker beers have also done well, largely because they’re cheaper there.
Almost one-third of beers launched in China in 2016 contained little or no alcohol (defined as less than 3.5 percent alcohol content), according to Mintel.
That compared with 7 percent of beers in the U.K. and just 1 percent in the U.S.
In Western Europe, the largest market for Heineken NV and Carlsberg A/S, demand for beer with no more than 0.5 percent alcohol jumped about 20 percent from 2011 to 2016, according to researcher Euromonitor International Ltd.
In Nigeria, investigation by Nigeria Industrial Digest shows that beers with lower alcoholic volumes started appearing on the scene almost five years ago.
Data on alcoholic contents (especially on Lagers beer) obtained from major brewers in the country (Guinness Nigeria Plc, International Breweries Plc and Nigerian Breweries Plc), show that of the trios, only Nigerian Breweries, the country’s largest beers maker by volume of products portfolio and by money invested in the business, has responded to the market’s demand for beers with lower alcoholic content.
Findings reveal that from 2014 till-dates, the company has so far introduced three to four variants of weak beers into the market in a bid to catch up with the revolution in the industry.
The company brands of weak beers are Star Lite with 3.99% alcohol content; Star Radler 2% alcohol content and Stella Lager 4.5% alcoholic volume.
The fourth is Strongbow Apple, in its Cider category. Its volume of alcohol is 4.5 percent.
“The new beer brand, a line extension of STAR Lager, is brewed with 100% natural ingredients; the finest Malted Barley, high quality Hops, and the best quality water; as such, has fewer calories compared to other standard lager beers,” said Marketing Director Walter Drenth, during the launch of the product in 2014.
‘Lite implies fewer calories’; this beer is for modern and social gentlemen who like to stand out and lead an active lifestyle’,” he said.
Beer for entry level drinkers
A year after, the company rolled out another weaker beer called ‘Radler’. A consumer christened it ‘The beer for entry level beer drinkers.’
It was unveiled to public during the Calabar Carnival in December 2015.
“Radler, which took its roots in Germany based on a recipe made in 1922, has beer and fruit juices as its ultimate ingredients.
“A unique fusion of great tasting blended with pure citrus juice (orange and lemon); Star Radler is naturally brewed, containing two per cent (2%) of alcohol to give double refreshment.
“Star Radler is meant to attract consumers who are new to beer category; it is more specifically meant exclusively for adults above 18 years,” the company said in a statement.
Investigation further shows that Nigerian Breweries’ latest addition to its weak beers category is Stella Lager. It was introduced in Nigeria in 2017.
Reasons for downward shift
Forsyth, mentioned earlier, said that among the biggest influences behind the industry’s downward shift is social media.
“Younger consumers weaned on smartphones are becoming wary of having embarrassing drunken photos of themselves appear on Instagram or of not looking their absolute best on Facebook the next day.
“They really link food and drink and alcohol consumption with how they look,” he said.
“You can’t underestimate the impact of technology on this. We see more and more consumers heading into that space,” says Brian Phan, director of brands including Great Northern and other light lagers at Carlton & United.
“If you’re going to drink over a few hours, midstrength does make sense,” he said.