Not Your Father's NA

January 14, 2021
Millennials are embracing a new generation of non-alc beer. Will their parents follow suit?
 
“Now You Can” announces a series of recent ads from Heineken, which extol the virtues of Heineken’s non-alc lager, Heineken 0.0. In the ads, Heineken has flipped the script on NA, showing young, fun-loving people enjoying 0.0 while waterskiing, at work and in leather jackets at a biker bar, looking effortlessly cool. The message is clear: Millennials love NA.
 
Admittedly, non-alc is still a small segment whether millennials love it or not, at about 1 million barrels in 2019 and 2% of the beer market. But as we pointed out in our summer issue, that’s about where hard seltzer was three years ago, and now it’s the biggest thing in beer.
 
And since NA is 0.5% ABV or lower and low in calories, there’s only one thing keeping it from becoming the next BFY beer phenomenon: Outdated perceptions. NA beer still conjures memories of near-tasteless or overly sweet NA lagers, the choice of a parent who couldn’t partake or was looking to cut calories. Not exactly a draw for flavor-loving millennials, or any generation.
 
Recent brewing innovations mean that this antiquated image of NA is getting a refresh. After 15 years of extensive research and testing, Heineken developed the proprietary process that produced Heineken 0.0. With a taste just like the real thing, Heineken 0.0 has defied industry expectations, with its US performance driving growth for the Dutch brewery.
 
The success of Heineken 0.0 made space in the beer market for NA and now, there has been a seismic shift in the non-alc beer segment. Iconic breweries from across the US are staking their claim on NA beer and expanding their BFY offerings with unique takes on the category. Lagunitas has added IPNA to their portfolio, a take on their flagship IPA that helps fulfill their mission to “have an IPA for everyone, everywhere, at every time.” BrewDog launched two non-alc options in our market, Hazy AF and Punk AF, rebellious and alcohol-free. And Boston Beer is brewing up two contenders due out in early 2021: Sam Adams Just The Haze, which Jim Koch reckons will rival any hazy on the market, and Dogfish’s fruited wheat beer Lemon Quest, SeaQuench’s “sober sequel.”
 
Though customers’ preconceived notions about NA can be hard to shake, the breweries leading the charge with new NA beers are brands consumers trust, brands who built their names on flavor, quality ingredients and their brewing process. There’s no denying that this new generation of non-alcs deserves space in their fridges.
 
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