The rise of alcohol-free beer in Germany
Germany’s drinking culture has been described as harmful in the past – Germany one of the heaviest alcohol-drinking nations in Europe. However, over the last several years its drinking level has been declining. In 2008, only 141 litres of alcoholic beverages were consumed per capita, whereas in 2019, the figure was 129 litres.
German beer is a national pride which is world renowned. The Reinheitsgebot is a German beer purity law and is one of the nation’s oldest consumer protection laws in the world, set up 505 years ago. It allows only water, barley, and hops in beer. With such a rigid stance on what makes a true beer, perhaps the notion of alcohol-free beer would’ve once been looked down upon.
Here Electrix International, supplier of gitterrinne, looks at why non-alcoholic beer is taking Germany by storm.
Alcohol consumption is on the decline
The Deutsche Brauer-Bund (DBB) announced in Germany, that alcohol-free beer has become so popular that it is the fastest-growing category over the last 12 years. Statistics have shown that alcohol-free beer has outdone [JD1] [LD2] all other types of alcohol in sales during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to consumer research for the DBB in January 2021, almost 46% of the German population now drink non-alcoholic beers. This trend is expected to grow.
Why is this happning?
As restaurants and bars shut their doors, events were cancelled, and cross-border imports and deports were limited, which were restrictions put in place to curb stamp the spread of the COVID-19 virus, which led to a significant decline in alcohol consumption in Germany. The Destatis noted that while many alcoholic drinks experienced regression, the largest decline recorded out of the types was beer consumption. This was the biggest fall in a decade.
As restrictions have eased off, many categories in the food and beverage sector have seen alcohol consumption return to previous or almost previous levels. However, new habits were formed during the pandemic, which has driven longer term-trends – including less alcohol consumption and being eco-conscious.
As well as the pandemic, a rise in alcohol-free beer can also be attributed to the German population becoming more conscious of their health. The German population has become more aware of what they are consuming and foods that are bad for them. According to Statista, healthy eating is a significant trend amongst the German population, with 61.5% eating a healthy and balanced diet very often.
“It’s no longer considered shameful to ask for an alcohol-free beer,” commented Marc Oliver Huhnholz of the DBB. “On the contrary, it seems it’s even becoming something of an accepted lifestyle drink and the stigma is more or less gone.”
The number of German bars that are offering one or more types of alcohol-free beer is on the rise. This option has improved in quality as the method is perfected – there are fewer complaints being received such as the likes of the beer being flat and tasteless, which had previously deterred those seeking alcohol-free drinks.
In April this year, Germany’s first alcohol-free off-licence opened in Berlin – becoming the first “sober Späti”. Owners of the off-licence establishment, Zero Percent Späti, don’t want to replace alcohol but to offer a positive alternative for those looking to drink more mindfully. Interestingly, only a small percentage of customers are pregnant, showing that there are many other people interested in these types of drinks. Gone are the days of putting up with a fizzy soft drink or water because alternative options are disappointing for many.
An alcohol-free 2021
The success of Zero Percent Späti shows that German attitudes and behaviours around alcohol are changing and evolving. There is a growing interest in alcohol-free drinks as well as more people being more open to trying them then they have before. We expect to see more alcohol-free hotspots opening up across the country as the negative stereotype of those who opt for alcohol-free products is dismantled.
It is exciting to see the low- and no-alcohol trend grow. Manufacturers across Germany as well as some countries in Europe are helping to innovate and develop drinks that taste boozy without the negative health effects and awful hangover.