Occasionally, my late grandfather drank an ice-cold Miller Lite after mowing his yard on a humid Memphis day. He’d pour it into a mug and tap in a bit of salt. He had quit any social drinking decades earlier, but that cold beer spelled refreshment to him.
Refreshment has never been my only reason for drinking beer. Which is probably why the appeal of non-alcoholic beer has puzzled me, especially at the same price as a regular beer. Beer commands the price it does in part because of the functionality of alcohol. For refreshment, I’ll take a sports drink, or a soda. That’s why I wrote in this column last year that I am a non-alcoholic beer skeptic. I write today to tell you that I am becoming a believer — with a caveat.
Vying for Attention: Functional Mocktails, Seaweed, Upcycling, Canned Sports Drink, Hard Honey
March 16, 2023
Natural Products Expo West was nearly back to pre-pandemic form this year with more than 3,000 exhibitors and 65,000 attendees. The show, held last week in Anaheim, California, hosts the vanguard of consumer health and wellness trends, mostly in packaged food and beverage. Had you been at Expo West in 1999, you would have seen bottled organic tea brand Honest in its infancy, a dozen years before Coca-Cola would eventually acquire the company in full from co-founder and fair trade tea evangelist Seth Goldman. While many brands at the show will fail, they often still represent trends that will one day go mainstream and generate meaningful growth, usually at premium pricing. As a result, Expo West is a magnet for strategic companies, private equity investors, distributors, and retailers looking for the next big trend or growth brand. With all of this in mind, BD walked the show floor — 10 football fields in size — for three days, spending most of that time in the “Hot Products” zones, where the smallest and newest companies exhibit. Here’s what caught our attention:
Beverage Digest is walking the show floor along with about 65,000 other attendees at Expo West in California this week. We'll investigate natural ingredient trends that could one day drive the growing and profitable functional packaged beverage market. We're also looking for what's new within existing ready-to-drink segments and product lines, and talking to the founders and leaders who propel the sector.
We'll share our observations in live updates here, so check back through the next couple of days.
Subscribers can email us if there is something specific you'd like to ask about. For those attending the show, feel free to send any noteworthy observations as well.
KDP CEO Says Investment, Distribution Deal to Unlock C-Stores, Cold Placements
December 19, 2022
Keurig Dr Pepper followed its surprise $50 million November investment in Athletic Brewing with a far larger deal in December – an $863 million investment in C4 performance energy drink maker Nutrabolt. KDP also becomes Nutrabolt’s long-term sales and distribution partner. While ready-to-drink C4 ...
Investment to Fuel Athletic’s North America Growth, Company Says
November 9, 2022
Keurig Dr Pepper has taken a $50 million minority equity stake in Athletic Brewing, the US-based non-alcoholic craft beer brand that has propelled interest in the growing segment. The companies will announce the investment this morning. KDP’s stake is on par with other lead investors in the brand, including TRB Advisors and Alliance Consumer Growth. “We’re thrilled to welcome Keurig Dr Pepper as an investor and strategic partner,” Athletic Co-founder and CEO Bill Shufelt told BD in an email. “...
As you know well as a BD subscriber, we are paying far more attention to the alcohol beverage market. In today’s issue, we write about the friction caused by non-alcohol beverage companies as they find ways to patriciate in ready-to-drink alcohol.
Given that backdrop, we are excited to announce the addition of Anheuser-Busch InBev to our Future Smarts conference program. Our guest will be Fabricio Zonzini, president of ABI’s Beyond Beer business unit in North America. He runs the fastest growing business unit within ABI’s largest geographic zone.
During a fireside chat with me, Zonzini will provide commentary on industry trends in RTD cocktails, seltzers, and low-alcohol packaged beverages, which have been a focus of growth for the world’s largest beer brewer. ABI also plays in traditional non-alcoholic RTD categories including energy
Ceria Founder Also Says Non-Alcoholic Beer Market Will Rival Craft Brew Market
June 23, 2022
Keith Villa, the PhD brewmaster who created Blue Moon almost three decades ago
for Coors Brewing, is credited with using that beer to help introduce scores of consumers to more flavorful craft brews. Blue Moon was a gateway brew for light beer drinkers who would eventually consume everything from IPAs to Saisons as craft beer went mainstream during 2000s. In recent years, Villa has been toiling away on his latest gateway project: cannabis- infused and alcohol-free beers. Villa’s company, Ceria Brewing, relaunched its beers with
a new look this month after first introducing the brand in 2018. Villa uses a proprietary process to get Ceria’s beers to 0.0% ABV. Ceria’s lineup includes a Belgian-style white ale called Grainwave (Villa’s latest Blue Moon) and an IPA called Indiewave. Versions of these alcohol-free beers with psychoactive THC and non-psychoactive CBD are available at licensed marijuana dispensaries in Colorado and California, where the recreational use of cannabis is permitted. The beers have less than 100 calories per 12-oz can. A six-pack of Ceria’s alcohol- free beer sells for about $10. THC versions sell at regulated cannabis dispensaries for about $6 - $8 per can, plus taxes. Given the growing interest in low- and no-alcohol beers and cannabis-infused beverages, BD took the opportunity to discuss both segments with Villa, who runs the company with his wife Jodi Villa, who is CEO. The following has been edited for length and clarity...
I’m a skeptic when it comes to non-alcoholic craft beers, spirits, and wines. How big can this market get without the functional benefits of alcohol, especially when sold at about the same price?
I recently posed the question to Athletic Brewing Co-founder and CEO Bill Shufelt during a panel I moderated for Credit Suisse in New York. His non-alcoholic beer brand has raised more than $70 million since launching in 2018 and accounts for almost half of the still-small US non-alcoholic beer market. Shufelt told me that most of his consumers don’t shun alcohol. Sometimes they just need a break and they like beer. He sees lots
One of the big themes BD will mine this year is the new aggressive approach by non-alcoholic beverage powerhouses to find revenue growth in the alcohol beverage market. What appeared last year to be an experiment is quickly looking like strategy.
Of particular interest now are the divergent paths taken by Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Monster Beverage, spurred by the fragmented nature of the US alcohol distribution system.
Coke has quickly expanded its Topo Chico licensing test started a year ago with Molson Coors. That deal now includes Simply, a household name in the chilled juice segment. And Coke has partnered with a second brewer and spirits company, Constellation Brands, to create a canned cocktail headlined by Fresca. In both cases, distribution will be handled by the brewers’ networks.
PepsiCo’s go-to-market strategy couldn’t be more different than Coke’s. The company has opted to build its own alcohol distribution and merchandising network around a flavored malt beverage called Hard Mtn Dew. (Be sure to check out our Blue Cloud map published last month and available only to subscribers.) Boston Beer will develop and produce the drink under license from PepsiCo.