Stella Artois introduces its first nonalcoholic beer

Dive Brief:

  • Anheuser-Busch is releasing its first zero-proof beer under the Stella Artois brand. Called Liberté, the nonalcoholic libation is now available in select markets including New York, Washington D.C., Miami and Philadelphia.
  • The 0.0% option will come in the brand’s classic 11.2-ounce glass bottles, but with updated labeling. In its press release, the brand said this is a nonalcoholic version of its classic blonde pilsner.
  • Nonalcoholic beer has become a focus for AB InBev over the last few years as the company seeks to turn around its slipping beer sales. The beer maker has zero-proof beers under many of its lines, including Budweiser, Busch, Goose Island, Four Peaks Brewing, Breckenridge Brewery and Golden Road Brewing brands.

Dive Insight:

This latest release under the Stella Artois brand shows that AB InBev has found success in using nonalcoholic brews to innovate beyond its legacy products.

Choosing Stella Artois as the next brand for a nonalcoholic makeover makes sense, as AB InBev has worked to position Stella Artois as a premium offering. Premiumization has driven market growth in the beverage space during the pandemic as consumers have increased their at-home drinking. Stella Artois is also a beer with positive sales growth in AB InBev’s portfolio, registering 6.5% global revenue growth in 2019.

Consumers buying Stella Artois are also those whom AB InBev is interested in targeting, as 42% of those who drink the beer are under 50, according to Statista. The same demographic consuming Stella Artois is also the one driving the trend toward nonalcoholic beverages. In 2019, 66% of millennials said they’re making efforts to reduce their alcohol consumption, according to Nielsen data.

Although these consumers are curtailing their consumption, they are hesitant to give up the taste and experience of beer — especially since a large segment of them are partial to the taste of hops and suds but also intent on balancing in health and wellness.

Nonalcoholic beer’s pace of growth is expected to triple to between 1.5% and 2% by 2024, according to data from the Beverage Marketing Corporation. This momentum has prompted Big Beer manufacturers to take notice of the category as a way to reinvigorate sales. Last year, AB InBev’s Vice President Adam Warrington said the company plans to have 20% of its global beer volumes coming from no- and low-alcohol beers by 2025. The beverage corporation has since launched two nonalcoholic beer lines under two of its flagship brands: Budweiser and Busch.

For years, nonalcoholic beer was dogged by the stigma that its taste was subpar to the real deal. However, this has changed in recent years and now these beers have flavor profiles similar to the original recipes, something Stella Artois pointed out in its press release. A Global Market Insights found that more than 25% of Europeans prefer the taste of nonalcoholic beer over the conventional version. Altering the perception of nonalcoholic beer’s taste has been no small undertaking for manufacturers. To launch Anheuser-Busch’s Budweiser Zero, the company said it took a team of brewers around the globe more than two years. 

As Stella Artois’ rolls out its nonalcoholic beverage, it will have significant competition — from Athletic Brewing to Heineken 0.0 — as it works to capture the taste buds and loyalty of consumers in the increasingly competitive space. 

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