Heineken Launches Its First Alcohol-Free Beer

By Kelly Burch 03/08/17

"Our goals are to empower consumers with choice and change social norms, and this beer will achieve both."

a row of Heinekens

The Dutch brewery Heineken is launching its first alcohol-free beer, despite the previous director of the company saying that an alcohol-free beer would never appear under the Heineken brand and that even a light beer would damage the brand’s reputation. 

The alcohol-free beer, Heineken 0.0, will be available in the Netherlands starting this week and will launch internationally after that. 

“The new brand is exciting,” said Heineken master brewer Willem van Waesberghe, according to Dutch News. “It is the biggest change Heineken has made in years because it is an update of our own brand.”

Van Waesberghe says that the brewery researched non-alcoholic beers and took two years to perfect the formula of Heineken 0.0. “We pulled Heineken beers apart and looked at how we could get the Heineken tastes,” van Waesberghe said.

However, even after extensive research, he acknowledged that the taste will be different. “You never get the same taste because alcohol tastes like alcohol,” he said.

Freddy Heineken, who ran the brewery that his grandfather founded for years before his death in 2002, was very protective of Heineken’s image and wouldn’t even pursue the development of a light beer, which he felt would detract from the brand’s image. 

“Beer is 10% water and 90% emotion,” Heineken said, according to the Dutch Financial Times

Non-alcoholic beers make up less than 1% of the global beer market, but their popularity is growing at nearly double the rate of traditional beer. Consumption of non-alcoholic beer grew 2.54% over a five-year period ending in 2015, according to Beverage Daily.

Over the same time period, consumption of traditional beer grew just 1.57%. In some parts of the world, alcohol-free beer makes up a bigger portion of the market. In Spain, for example, it is estimated to make up 10% of the market. 

Last year, Budweiser debuted its first completely alcohol-free beer, Budweiser Prohibition Brew. "Our goals are to empower consumers with choice and change social norms, and this beer will achieve both," Kyle Norrington, the vice president of marketing at Labatt Brewing Company, which is part of Anheuser-Busch InBev, said in a statement.

However, the option was only available in Canada. The brand told AdAge that it was "excited by the prospect that it could eventually be offered in the U.S.” However, that has yet to happen. 

Most "alcohol-free" beer (or "near beer," as it is sometimes called) boasts a very small alcohol content, so those in abstinence-based recovery may want to check the labels before imbibing.

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.