Keep the flavor, hold the alcohol

The trend toward healthier beverage choices shows no sign of slowing down. Consumers have grown increasingly mindful of their health and wellness, which is leading many to seek out better-for-you options to fill their glasses. Among these is alcohol-free beer – a sharp contrast to the many high ABV beers lining the shelves, and an increasingly appealing choice for many consumers.

Health-conscious consumers are driving change

The no-alcohol beer segment is expected to grow 8.8% by 2023, reflecting a shift in consumer preferences toward healthier, higher quality products.1 Beyond health, there’s also growing interest in sustainability benefits such as ingredient sourcing and social responsibility. Our own research also confirms the forces that are driving these changes, with 59% of consumers in our 2020 study2 concerned about the health aspects of drinking beer. This is creating demand for beer that delivers premium benefits – such as no alcohol and gluten free – paired with a willingness to pay more for these products. But only if the flavor is right – make no mistake, taste is still king.

Alcohol-free choices expand …

As a partner to breweries around the world, we’re closely aligned to these trends and how they’re translating into opportunities for brewers. When it comes to alcohol-free beer, many are acting fast to expand their portfolios and capture a slice of this growing market. Heineken’s first 0.0 alcohol-free beer has expanded to over 30 global markets since its launch3, and Carlsberg continues to champion the alcohol-free category, noting that their alcohol-free brews performed well during the coronavirus crisis4. Without question, the pandemic is also fueling this trend toward more mindful consumption.

… but do they deliver the right experience?

The process of producing alcohol-free beer is generally done via one of two methods. The first follows the traditional brewing process and then removes the alcohol, while the second method stops the production of alcohol altogether. Regardless of the method used, brewers face a formidable challenge in trying to replicate the authentic taste and flavor of regular beer to match consumer expectations. The main challenge is to reduce or to change the unpleasant taste and flavor from unfermented wort in case no fermentation took place. Secondly, with regards to removing the alcohol after fermentation, mouthfeel matters too, and watery alcohol free beers are something to be avoided. Indeed, there’s much for brewers to consider in their quest to deliver a consistently excellent drinking experience with alcohol-free beers.

Alcohol-free choices expand …

As a partner to breweries around the world, we’re closely aligned to these trends and how they’re translating into opportunities for brewers. When it comes to alcohol-free beer, many are acting fast to expand their portfolios and capture a slice of this growing market. Heineken’s first 0.0 alcohol-free beer has expanded to over 30 global markets since its launch5, and Carlsberg continues to champion the alcohol-free category, noting that their alcohol-free brews performed well during the coronavirus crisis6. Without question, the pandemic is also fueling this trend toward more mindful consumption.

Enzyme solutions for every step of the brewing process

DSM’s enzyme solutions for brewing, such as Brewers Compass®, Maxazyme® NNP DS and the Filtrase® range, offer key benefits throughout the brewing process that brewers can leverage in their production of alcohol-free beer. From recipe formulation to fermentation and stabilization control, our integrated solutions can help optimize the brewing process to reduce costs and increase capacity, while also having a positive impact on the sustainability of the finished product. And brewers looking to make their alcohol-free beer also gluten-free – another healthier option consumers are seeking – can leverage proven and easy-to-use Brewers Clarex® without any impact on flavor or quality.

Make room on the shelves for innovations to come

The brewing landscape is changing quickly, and it’s becoming clear that there’s room for more than just traditional beer on the shelves. As consumers everywhere adjust to a new, post-pandemic ‘normal’, they’re emerging with renewed priorities, particularly when it comes to health and wellness. The uptick in alcohol-free beer consumption is likely just the tip of the iceberg and could drive further innovations in this category – perhaps with the addition of vitamins, proteins and fibers to boost health benefits, or with fruit flavors to create unique taste profiles.

Working with our brewing partners to imagine the next on-trend beverage of choice - and providing solutions to ensure taste, texture and nutrition - is a challenge we look forward to.

Published on

23 July 2021