International Beer Day: Alcohol-free beverages, carbon neutral claims and fruit flavors underscored
05 Aug 2022 --- In light of International Beer Day, FoodIngredientsFirst examines the latest trends in beer innovation and the diversification of categories. Notably, the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted how consumers view drinking at home, and as the health of the planet shapes more food and beverage choices, companies are eying the prospect of becoming carbon neutral.
Meanwhile, the expansion of fruit-flavored beers and alcohol-free concepts also dominate the scene.
Naoto Kobuna, manager of corporate communications at Kirin Holdings, says consumer trends in Asia have seen a rise in demand for home drinking due to the pandemic, and the ratio of purchases at supermarkets and e-commerce has increased.
He elaborates that “zero-sugar beer and low-carb beer products such as Kirin Ichiban Zero Sugar are seeing strong sales due to rising health awareness and concerns around sugar intake.”
There is also a growing need for ready-to-drink (RTDs) and craft beer, indicating a diversification of categories for customers to choose from, Kobuna adds.
Alcohol-free innovation pipeline
Avoiding alcohol is becoming the norm for a growing minority of global consumers. The trend is reflected in the business activities of international beer brewers, including Kirin, which plans to hit 209.5 million sold cases of alcohol-free beverages in 2022, a 2% increase compared to last year.
While this trend is evidenced across all age groups, it is most apparent in Generation Z consumers. As many as a third of consumers aged 18-25 say that they never consume alcohol, according to a recent report from Innova Market Insights.
Vicky Berry, senior European business development manager at Synergy Flavours, believes consumers are “less willing to compromise when it comes to flavor, and brands of all sizes – from start-ups to big industry players – appear to be taking this on board and working hard to create alcohol-free beers that meet these expectations.”
“2022 has seen some big launches in this space, such as Guinness 0:0 and Peroni Nastro Azzuro 0:0% – the alcohol-free counterpart of Peroni Nastro Azzuro, which the Asahi Group has reportedly invested €20 million (US$20.4 million) into developing,” she notes.
“On-trade is also taking this category seriously. We are seeing bars and licensed premises expanding their alcohol-free offering, both in terms of beer and the wider low- and no-alcohol beverages, which is helping to further innovation within this sector and raising the standards for quality in low- and no-alcohol beers,” Berry continues.
While Millennial and Gen Z consumers are leading the market, she anticipates “an even greater demand for flavor variety within traditional beers, which in turn could lead to a push toward more daring flavors.”
“Flavor concepts from soft drinks that therefore might appeal to beer consumers may include lavender or lemongrass, and spices such as cinnamon or ginger,” adds Berry.
According to Kobuna, Kirin is evolving in non-alcoholic beer-tasting beverages from “a passive category of beverages consumed as a substitute when one cannot drink alcohol to a category of active beverages consumed as a preferred beverage option when one wants to refresh oneself.”
In the company’s advancements in labeling and part of its “Zero Harmful Drinking” initiative, Kirin Brewery Company will start labeling the amount of net alcohol contained in its main alcohol products sold in Japan.
The labeling changes began in May, with the brewery company aiming to complete the labeling of all alcohol products by the end of 2023.
Renewable energy in beer
In addition, Lion Australia, a Kirin group company, is a Climate Active certified carbon neutral brewer, making it Australia’s first large-scale brewer to achieve this.
“Becoming Climate Active certified has seen us build upon our carbon reduction program with certified carbon credits that offset our remaining organizational carbon footprint,” continues Kobuna.
“We established a ‘whole brewery’ carbon reduction approach including energy efficiency, biogas utilization, rooftop solar and renewable energy power purchase agreements through providing brewer’s grain to farmers to reduce livestock emissions,” he explains.
“By 2025, we’ll be using 100% renewable electricity to brew all our beers.”
Earlier this year, Lion launched “Australia’s first carbon neutral alcohol-free beer,” XXXX Zero, branded as “Australia’s first carbon neutral alcohol-free beer.”
Brewing new flavors
Another key trend is the rise of fruit-flavored beers. According to Synergy, flavored beer appears more frequently on European shelves.
“Lemon remains a top flavor profile for this category, with one popular example being Radlers – however, we are seeing increasing innovation into other fruit flavors, such as BrewDog’s ‘Silk Road’ lychee and mango IPA,” explains Berry.
“The beer category is also pulling in flavors from the wider beverages industry, so flavor inspiration is coming into this category from other beverage types,” she notes.
“RTD cocktails are one area of continuous innovation at the moment, and this could lead to a blurring of the lines between cocktails and beers, leading to cocktail-inspired beer launches – for example, a pornstar martini-inspired beer which includes flavors such as lime, vanilla and passionfruit.”
Nostalgia shaping NPD?
According to Berry, nostalgia is trending in beverages, particularly cocktails, with ingredients such as candyfloss or popping candy often making a special appearance.
“This trend for nostalgic sweet flavors may make its way into the beer space, which we already see with some recent launches. For example, Northern Monk collaborated with Aunt Bessie to create a 4.5% alcohol-by-volume (ABV) jam roly poly pale ale, and BrewDog’s recent collaboration with confectionery brand Candy Kittens has led to the launch of the Candy Kitten IPA.”
Berry believes that Millennial consumers are “particularly engaged with nostalgic influences” and expect to see these flavors become more prevalent within beer applications “as this generation looks for products that give them a taste of years gone by.”
The continued expansion of the low- and no-alcohol market also plays a part, as this sector is predicted to grow by 67% over 2021-26 and reach sales of £286 million (US$347 million), she comments. “With this market growth tied into nostalgia, we’re also anticipating the return of shandy,” she reveals.
Beer flavors bubble into the food scene
Food items such as beer-battered fish frequently appear on restaurant menus, suggesting that the addition of beer to the batter mix elevates the taste and texture of the fish batter, and beer-can chicken is a popular BBQ centerpiece, particularly in US territories.
With beer already a popular ingredient in cooking, Synergy expects to see this trend develop as consumers experiment with different recipes using a readily-available beverage – possibly even more so as a greater variety of beer flavors enter the market.
“Manufacturers could also take inspiration from beer flavor varieties,” notes Berry. “For example, Hoegaarden is a Belgian white beer which has enjoyed success for centuries due to its innovative blend of orange peel and coriander, a combination of which has been mimicked by other brands in recent years.”
“This popular flavor pairing of fruit and herbs has also been seen in our recent research into Michelin star menus, where combinations such as rhubarb and basil are emerging as popular combinations across desserts.”
“Despite the main application of beer flavors relating to the beverage category, we are seeing indications that beer is certainly making its way further into food applications,” she concludes.
By Elizabeth Green
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