2024 06 20

Beer Sommelier T. Josas: what do consumers expect when choosing a non-alcoholic beer today?

The choice and market for non-alcoholic beers today is incomparably wider and more varied than a decade ago. According to the Lithuanian Beer Sommelier Champion, this is both a reflection of changing consumer needs and the result of the persistent efforts and innovation of brewers. The recent travels of Gubernija’s non-alcoholic beers to different parts of the world, the awards and the positive feedback from consumers abroad, are a good illustration of the changes in the market.

Breaking down stereotypes and old myths

Beer sommelier and beer ambassador of MV GROUP Distribution LT, Tomas Josas, notes that the dynamics of the non-alcoholic beer market reflects the changing generations of consumers. According to the expert, it is the new generation that dictates the market trends, destroying myths, trite comparisons and stereotypes. “The new generation is more open to experimentation and innovation, and the beer category is a space from which experimentation and innovation flow,” says Mr Josas. As an example, he mentions the new non-alcoholic, vitamin-enriched beer cocktail Gubernija Radler Grapefruit-Orange. Sales of this product increased by 59% last year.

According to the beverage expert, the rising quality of non-alcoholic beers is giving more freedom and choice to individuals in different situations, at celebrations or gatherings of friends.

He says that producers today spend a great deal of time analysing trends, studying and forecasting the evolution of consumer needs, and investing heavily in upgrading production lines. “20 years ago, non-alcoholic beer was a far cry from what we consume today. The production process was considerably more complex and expensive. Over time, producers have adapted, new ways of producing non-alcoholic beer have emerged (special yeast), consumers’ willingness to experiment has increased and this has eventually led to a major transformation in the market as a whole,” says Lithuanian Beer Sommelier Champion T. Josas.

Summarising the main reasons for the changes, the expert points out that the main reasons for the rise of non-alcoholic beers are technological advances (the use of new low-alcohol yeasts) and changes in consumer habits (the promotion of healthy lifestyles).

Lithuanian non-alcoholic beer travels thousands of kilometres

The beer ambassador of MV GROUP Distribution LT is convinced that non-alcoholic beer has a huge potential, which producers are slowly starting to exploit. For example, most of the non-alcoholic beer from the Gubernija brewery is exported to Latvia, Poland, Sakartvel and even the Democratic Republic of Congo. This shows that the Lithuanian product appeals not only to its neighbors, but also to markets thousands of kilometres away, where food and drink traditions are different. In some countries, non-alcoholic beer is approaching the peak of its popularity, while in others consumers are just discovering it and demand is still gathering momentum.

The export destinations and the distances covered show Gubernija’s perseverance, quality and belief in its products. The brewing traditions of the country’s oldest brewery and the maturity and competence of the brewing community provide a solid foundation and confidence to present Lithuanian beer internationally. And not only to present it, but also to win the favour of consumers in markets where non-alcoholic beer is not yet such a common and varied drink.

Recent experience shows that Gubernija brings a high standard when entering foreign markets. The Lithuanian brewery, which will celebrate its 360th anniversary next year, is open to innovation, but raises the quality bar as high for new products as it does for traditional ones.

Last year, the jury of the World Beer Awards 2023, one of the world’s largest competitions, voted Gubernija’s non-alcoholic Tamsų Elis the best non-alcoholic beer in the world. In total, the beverage has won four top awards in the competition.

T. Josas points out that the competent international jury judging Gubernija’s dark non-alcoholic beer noted its rich taste, intense colour, balanced flavour and unusual, distinctive aroma. “At the recent Lithuanian Beer Festival in Vilnius, Gubernija Tamsusis non-alcoholic received many positive comments from consumers who were looking for non-alcoholic alternatives during the event. Many of those who tasted Gubernija’s non-alcoholic dark ale said that it tasted like beer and was one of the more interesting products available on the market,” says Lithuania’s top beer sommelier.

Breakthrough reflected in sales

This year’s figures show that exports of non-alcoholic beer brewed by Gubernija are on the rise. In the first four months of the year, sales abroad (in litres) increased by almost 30 %.

Consumption of Gubernija’s non-alcoholic beer is growing most strongly in Latvia, while the Lithuanian product has been well received by consumers in the new export markets of Slovenia, Estonia and Ukraine.

“It is pleasing that we are also being recognised in neighbouring countries, especially in Estonia. The Estonians are currently one of the trendsetters in the beer world. As a result, Estonian brewers offer a whole range of different non-alcoholic beers from fruity and sour to dark and intense. The success of the Lithuanian beverage in such a saturated market only shows that we are moving in the right direction with Gubernija non-alcoholic beer,” says T. Josas.

It is observed that sales of non-alcoholic beer both in Lithuania and abroad increase most during the warm season – summer – when people want to both taste and refresh themselves. Non-alcoholic beer becomes a popular alternative to other soft drinks in the warmer months, especially among people looking for less sweet flavours.

“It is probably no surprise anymore that as the non-alcoholic beer market grows, so does the choice of non-alcoholic beer. This is driven by both producers and consumers, whose expectations are being met. This summer, we invite you to discover Gubernija’s non-alcoholic Tamsusis Elis with its unique flavour characteristics,” recommends Josas.