Heineken plans to launch a nonalcoholic version if its namesake beer soon, as a way for health-conscious consumers to seek out healthier options. The company will introduce its Heineken 0.0 (pronounced zero zero) nationwide in January. The world’s second-largest brewer initially launched the beer in May of 2017 in Barcelona, and since expanded to more than 30 countries.
Consumers are increasingly ditching beer and instead are drinking wine, spirits and hard seltzers, which they perceive as healthier than beer. Many others are beginning to drink less and even dropping alcohol completely. Heineken believes it can reignite the beer category by providing more opportunities to drink the brands infamous beer.
“It’s not about a replacement strategy, it’s complementary,” said Jonnie Cahill, chief marketing officer of Heineken USA. “Sometimes I drink Heineken. Sometimes I drink Heineken 0.0. … So what we see happening is that this is in addition to our own Heineken position. We see this as an ‘and’ not an ‘instead of’ purchase.”
The United States market for nonalcoholic beer is relatively small currently, with Anheuser-Busch InBev‘s O’Doul’s being the most well-known brand. However, there are other nonalcoholic beers that are becoming “somewhat stigmatized,” as CNBC reports. Heineken desires to market 0.0 as similar to traditional Heineken as possible, just without the alcohol, making it an option for a variety of situations.
In order to headline the nonalcoholic drink, the company will advertise new occasions for people to drink beer, including after a workout or during an office lunch. There are 65 calories in the beer, which is actually below light beers such as Anheuser-Busch’s Michelob Ultra, a brand that positioned itself as an option for health-conscious consumers.
In order to create beer without alcohol, while still tasting delicious, is quite challenging. Fermenting yeast naturally produces alcohol and assists in giving beer its flavor. However, the main techniques to produce nonalcoholic beer are to prevent yeast, to further restrict the production of alcohol.
As far as taste goes, Willem van Waesberghe says, “it’s a little different, but it’s really close to a good beer. I’m talking as a brewer. As a consumer, I’m really, really happy about it.”
According to Cahill, Heineken is not capable of forecasting growth in the United States, since it’s a completely new market for the brewer and it hasn’t tested the beer in the U.S. yet. “I can’t say where this for sure this turns out, but I can say for us this isn’t a January to March go,” Cahill said. “We believe the consumer’s ready. We believe this is good for beer, and we’re going to go for it. So I don’t see us blinking anytime soon.”