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Brew revolution: Athletic Brewing's $50m fundraise highlights new opportunities in no-alcohol market
Rafaela Sousa

Rafaela Sousa

10 July 2024

Brew revolution: Athletic Brewing's $50m fundraise highlights new opportunities in no-alcohol market

US non-alcoholic brewery Athletic Brewing Company has raised $50 million in an equity financing round led by global growth investor General Atlantic.


The funds will support long-term growth initiatives, including the acquisition of a third US brewing facility and expanding the availability of its non-alcoholic beers worldwide.


Athletic currently operates custom brewing facilities in Milford, Connecticut, and San Diego, California. Athletic recently acquired a second San Diego brewery and plans extensive renovations to double its US brewing capacity over the next 18 months.


Renovations will include the installation of a new packaging line and enhancements to the brewhouse, cellar and lab to meet the company's strict food safety and quality standards.


© Athletic Brewing Company

Andrew Crawford, MD and global head of consumer at General Atlantic, said: "With a differentiated brewing process, leading taste profile and loyal customer base, Athletic is poised to take advantage of the expanding global demand for non-alcoholic beer".


He continued: "We intend to leverage our international platform and capabilities across technology, digital marketing and merchandising to help the business achieve its potential".

Founded in 2018, Athletic Brewing has developed a proprietary brewing method to create fully fermented non-alcoholic beers that rival their alcoholic counterparts in taste. From a modest beginning, the brewery has grown rapidly, becoming one of the top 20 US breweries by selling over 258,000 barrels in 2023.


Recent surveys indicate a growing trend in alcohol moderation among Americans, with 41% actively seeking to reduce consumption in 2024, up 7% from the previous year. Non-alcoholic beer is increasingly viewed as a viable alternative, with 58% considering it suitable for long-term moderation.


Can non-alcoholic beers satisfy the health-conscious consumer?


The beverage industry is undergoing a transformation as consumer preferences shift towards healthier lifestyles and mindful drinking. This shift has driven non-alcoholic beers into the spotlight, turning a once-niche market into a mainstream phenomenon.


As more people seek healthier alternatives without sacrificing the social and flavourful aspects of beer, non-alcoholic options are flourishing.


 

The rise of non-alcoholic beers

The post-pandemic era has seen an increase in health consciousness, driving the popularity of low- and no-alcohol beverages. Non-alcoholic beer, in particular, stands out for its diverse offerings and health benefits.


Market research firm Fact MR projects that the global non-alcoholic beer market will grow by 5.07% annually from 2024 to 2029, reaching a market volume of $24.2 billion by 2029. This growth is driven by consumers' desire for lower-calorie, healthier alternatives to traditional alcoholic beverages.


Non-alcoholic beers typically contain less than 0.5% alcohol by volume (ABV) and are produced using methods such as vacuum distillation, reverse osmosis or by controlling the brewing process to minimise alcohol production. These beers offer the taste of traditional beer without the associated health risks of alcohol consumption.


 

Industry growth

© Anheuser-Busch

Nowadays, major breweries are investing in non-alcoholic beer production, launching new product lines, and expanding distribution channels to capitalise on this growing market. In addition to Athletic Brewing's recent investment, companies like AB InBev and Diageo have also invested to improve the production of their non-alcoholic beers.


Last year, AB In-Bev invested €31 million in technology upgrades at its Belgian breweries in Sint-Pieters-Leeuw, Hoegaarden and Leuven to expand the production of its non-alcohol beer portfolio, improve bottling capabilities and optimise a new de-alcoholising system to make its Corona Cero product.


Similarly, Diageo allocated €25 million in July 2023 to establish a new facility in Dublin, Ireland, aimed at increasing non-alcoholic Guinness production. The company said it expects to increase the production of Guinness 0.0 to increase by almost 300% with the new facility and will help to meet “growing domestic and global demand” for the non-alcoholic stout.


 

Improving taste and quality


Advancements in brewing technology have significantly improved the taste and quality of non-alcoholic beers. High-quality ingredients and innovative brewing methods now enable these beers to rival their alcoholic counterparts.


Companies, such as DSM, provide solutions to enhance the taste and flavour of de-alcoholised beers. For instance, DSM's Brewers TasteZyme G addresses the challenge of achieving the desired flavour profile in low- and no-alcohol beers. This product, used in biological brewing methods, converts glucose, which causes an overly sweet taste, into gluconic acid, imparting a more balanced sour flavour.


Additionally, Brewers TasteZyme G prevents oxidation during mashing, resulting in a fresher taste without negatively impacting the final product or requiring changes to the label.


In addition, brands like Heineken 0.0 and Guinness 0.0 have become popular for their ability to replicate the flavour of their traditional beers. Heineken's non-alcoholic beer brand, for instance, achieved double-digit growth in 16 markets in 2023.


 

Functional beverages and adaptogens


Beyond offering a healthier alternative to alcohol, some non-alcoholic beers are incorporating functional ingredients like adaptogens to enhance their appeal to health-conscious consumers.


Adaptogens, such as ashwagandha and ginseng, are known for their stress-reducing and balancing properties. Collider, for example, offers adaptogen-infused, non-alcoholic beers designed to provide relaxation and wellness benefits. Its Unwind Lager and Unwind Session Pale feature a blend of adaptogens aimed at reducing anxiety and promoting cognitive function.


Kombucha, a fermented tea known for its potential health benefits, is also entering the non-alcoholic beer market. Orbit Beers partnered with Momo Kombucha to create a non-alcoholic hopped kombucha, offering benefits for gut health and a boost of natural caffeine from black and green tea blends.


 

Consumer shifts and market potential


The rise in non-alcoholic beers reflects broader changes in consumer behaviour towards healthier, more balanced lifestyles. A growing number of people are looking to moderate their alcohol intake while still enjoying the social and flavourful aspects of beer.


Non-alcoholic beers have successfully transitioned from a niche product to a mainstream option, driven by a surge in health-conscious consumer behaviour.


With significant investments from major breweries, advancements in brewing technology and the incorporation of functional ingredients, non-alcoholic beers are well-positioned to satisfy the health-conscious consumer.


As the market continues to grow, these beverages are set to become a staple for those seeking a healthier, more mindful drinking experience.


Top image: © Athletic Brewing Company

#Alcoholfree #beer #AthleticBrewing

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