More Kiwis Opting for No-Low Alcohol

New research into New Zealanders' beer buying habits, published by industry group the Brewers Association of New Zealand, shows a huge rise in the popularity of low- and no-alcohol beer.

Sales of low-alcohol beer have shot up 1116 percent in the past five years, as the days of limited choice have gone.

The study found a sharp rise in no-alcohol beer sales is behind the jump, as well as an increase in products and brands. Low- and no-alcohol beers still make up only a small percentage of the market - zero-alcohol products account for 2 percent of supermarket sales.

But their rise is a standout figure in the research, done by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research.

Owner of Palmerston North bar Brew Union Murray Cleghorn noted that the increase in popularity of low-alcohol beer is a recent development.

"We run a low-alcohol beer on one of our 21 taps and that does actually turn over very well. Maybe three or four years ago Kiwis stigmatised low-carb or alcohol, [and] no-alcohol products, and that stigma's gone, I think."

Other factors played a part too, including the lower drink-driving limits and a cultural shift toward intolerance of driving over the limit.

"It's not common to hear people saying they're having a low-alcohol beer because they don't want the alcohol. It's usually for a purpose. It's usually because they've got to be moderate and they've got to drive home, which is great."

Wellington craft brewer Garage Project developed a low-alcohol IPA called Fugazi in 2016, which has proved popular. And, co-founder Jos Ruffell says, it couldn't keep up with demand for a non-alcohol hazy IPA called Tiny, released in November.

"The response to that has been overwhelming... It's flying out the door. It just seems to be hitting the right note at the moment. It's full flavoured. It's very aromatic. It's a beer that you can have, and you don't feel like you're missing out at all."

Brewers Association executive director Dylan Firth said low-alcohol beers have come a long way in a short time. There has also been strong growth in low-carb beers, which made up 8 percent of the beer market. Sales for these grew 33 per cent in the past year.

"I think it's one of those things that's happened pretty quick. The New Zealand brewing industry can be pretty agile and see trends and move towards them. Beer is one of those products you can make in a relatively short time compared to, say, wine."

The Kiwi beer industry was worth about $2.8 billion in 2021 and supported more than 6500 jobs. And although New Zealanders are drinking less beer than in the past, the spend is staying steady, suggesting they're looking at quality not quantity.