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It’s not only ‘near beer’ anymore, sales of alcohol-free drinks surge, so do choices

Jan 17, 2023, 5:17 PM

Non-alcoholic drinks sales surge...

DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 27: Belgium fans holds a Budweiser Zero can as they enjoy the pre match atmosphere prior to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group F match between Belgium and Morocco at Al Thumama Stadium on November 27, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY — Qatar was a controversial choice for the World Cup in November, but it was also big news when the country announced it would not allow beer sales at the stadiums that hosted games.

The move was the latest sign of the tension of staging the event, which is not just a sports tournament but also a monthlong party, in the autocratic country where the sale of alcohol is heavily restricted. It was also a significant blow to World Cup beer sponsor Budweiser and raised questions about how much control FIFA retained over its tournament.

But then Budweiser made the proverbial lemonade out of lemons by heavily promoting its new product ‘Budweiser Zero’, a brew with no alcohol.

“Near beer” as it is sometimes called, is not the only choice these days. Companies have released near-zero whiskey, alcohol-free rum and gin as well as zero-proof margaritas reported the NPR newsletter Planet Money.

“Younger Gen Z consumers are less interested in drinking alcohol than previous generations,” according to NielsenIQ.com, a global information company. “But there has also been a wider wellness movement taking place throughout society, with more people from every age and stage of life trying to take better care of themselves.”

The website also said between August 2021 and August 2022, total sales of non-alcoholic drinks in the U.S. was $396 million, a year-to-year increase of 20.6%.

NielsonIQ.com said non-alcoholic beer accounted for 85.3% of those sales. Non-alcohol wine accounted for 13.4% and non-alcoholic spirits the final 1.3%.

“In the past year to date, sales of non-alcoholic beer, wine, and spirits accounted for 0.47% of total alcohol sales in the U.S. While this is still a small figure, this percentage share has steadily grown over the past 5 years,” the website said.

NielsonIQ broke it all down this way:

  • In 2021: it was 0.39% of total alcohol sales
  • In 2020: 0.30% of total alcohol sales
  • In 2019: 0.26% of total alcohol sales
  • In 2018: 0.22% of total alcohol sales

For those who consume non-alcoholic drinks, this does not mean that they are going sober. NeilsonIQ said 82% of the people who buy non-alcoholic beers, wines, and spirits also indulge in drinks that contain alcohol.

More than 70 new alcohol-free products were released in the past year NielsonIQ’s Kaleigh Theriault told Planet Money.

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It’s not only ‘near beer’ anymore, sales of alcohol-free drinks surge, so do choices