Low alcohol and alcohol-free variants have been major drivers of beer consumption volumes in 2015, and are becoming widely accepted as flavorsome alternatives to regular strength beer, according to consumer insight firm Canadean.

The company’s latest report states that due to the health and wellness trend becoming more entrenched in consumer lifestyles, low alcohol beer volumes in West Europe have been growing by 1 percent annually. Indeed, alcohol-free beer recorded growth of 7 percent in 2015, and is the fastest growing segment by alcohol strength over a seven-year period.

Germany, a country whose alcoholic beer culture is internationally renowned, is a key driver of West Europe’s low and non-alcoholic beer volumes, accounting for over half of low alcohol and alcohol-free beer consumption. Growth in Germany’s low alcohol beer and alcohol-free beer volumes outpaced that of West Europe in 2015, at 5 percent and 3 percent, respectively. This growth can be attributed to the strength of the domestic industry, as Germany boasts the most popular brands in both strength segments, with Erdinger Alkoholfrei (Erdinger) generating the largest alcohol-free volumes, and Oettinger Radler (Oettinger Bier Brauhaus) leading the low alcohol segment. This highlights how German brewers have been effective at capturing market share as consumer interest has risen.

Andrew Curran, beverage analyst for Canadean, explains: “The success of low alcohol and alcohol-free beers can be partly attributed to the ongoing health and wellness trend that is particularly prevalent in Western Europe. Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of their alcohol intake and see low alcohol and alcohol-free variants as a healthier alternative, while still allowing for participation in traditional cultural events.”

Besides health, the low alcohol/alcohol-free market has also been affected by legal and economic factors. A number of West European countries are strengthening their drink-driving restrictions in a bid to tackle incidents of dangerous driving caused by alcohol intake.

Curran continues: “This encourages consumers to consider low alcohol/alcohol-free variants, while purchasing on-premise to adhere to laws and maintain regular social activity. As well as this, low-alcohol/alcohol-free beer variants are less expensive on average than their regular strength counterparts, providing an incentive to consumers seeking value for money to change their buying behavior.”

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