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Brewers script a cola war as they acquire a taste for non-alcoholic beer

Non-alcoholic beer from Anheuser-Busch InBev and Heineken will compete with beverages of cola giants Coca-Cola and PepsiCo.

Published: 17th July 2019 12:36 AM  |   Last Updated: 17th July 2019 12:36 AM   |  A+A-

liquor, Alcohol

For representational purposes (Express Illustrations)

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: While beer purists may recoil, more people tend to be opting for low- and no-alcohol brews as they seek healthier lifestyles and all things “wellness” remain firmly in fashion.  Spotting a growth opportunity in an otherwise nascent market, the world's largest brewers - Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) and Heineken - are launching non-alcoholic beer of their flagship brands in India that will compete with beverages of cola giants Coca-Cola and PepsiCo on supermarket shelves, e-commerce channels and restaurants.

While AB InBev will roll out Budweiser 0.0 next week, Heineken-controlled United Breweries has already launched two products - Kingfisher Radler and Heineken 0.0 - this year with plans to expand its non-alcoholic portfolio. “With demand for low and non-alcoholic beer increasing, there is a need for more choices in the non-alcoholic cold refreshments and we are working to fill this gap,” said Ramesh Viswanathan, chief business officer at United Breweries Limited.

Ramesh feels that Gujarat is an opportunity market for these products as it’s a state where making, selling and drinking alcohol is banned since 1960. The company also has a global mission to double sales of such products to 10 per cent by 2025.

The market for non-alcohol beers, however, is still nascent. “As of 2018, eight per cent of our global beer volumes came from no-and-low alcohol beverages,” Ben Verhaert, President - South Asia, AB InBev.

Zero alcohol beers also tend to be more profitable in the country because beer is subject to high taxes that make up for more than half the retail price. “The taxation structure for beer should reflect moderation i.e beverages with low alcohol content such as beer should be taxed at a lower rate than beverages with high alcohol content which is the international best practice too. For various reasons, there has been no attempt to project beer as a separate category for a long time in India and we hope this will change going forward,” said Verhaert.

AB InBev will roll out Budweiser 0.0 across top urban centers – Mumbai, Delhi , Bangalore, Pune, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata as well as the prohibition state of Gujarat.

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