AB InBev Efes, which is a Russia-based unit of the world's largest brewer, Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev), is expecting double-digit growth in its non-alcoholic local beer sales in the next few years, after the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated a shift towards healthier lifestyles.
While many beer lovers across the globe shifted to at-home consumption during the pandemic, non-alcoholic beer sales in Russia, which is the world's sixth-largest beer market, grew by 13% year-on-year, while the overall beer market rose 4%, according to AB InBev Efes.
The company's own sales of non-alcoholic beer in Russia jumped by 20% last year, Dmitry Shpakov, chief executive officer of AB InBev Efes, told Reuters.
Get a FREE Digital Subscription!Enjoy full access to Hospitality Ireland, our weekly email news digest, all website and app content, and every digital issue.
"Healthy lifestyles, which became popular long before the pandemic, gained more momentum last year and contributed to increasing consumer interest in non-alcoholic beer, delivering double-digit growth," Shpakov said.
AB InBev Efes, which operates in Russia and Ukraine and offers BUD, Stella Artois and Spaten among other brands, expects this trend to continue over the next few years, Shpakov said.
"The (non-alcoholic beer) industry has more than doubled over the last four to five years. And the further ahead we look, the more non-alcoholic beer becomes not a substitute for alcoholic beer, but a category in its own right."
Despite the recent surge, the share of non-alcoholic beer on the Russian market accounts for just over 2%, much lower than 11% in Spain or 8% in Germany, Shpakov said.
Additional Sales Information
Mirroring a wider boom in Russia's e-commerce market, AB InBev Efes' online sales of non-alcoholic beer, which include lagers, fruit beers and blanches, rose by 400% in the first quarter compared with a year earlier, Shpakov said.
Sales of premium beer were also up last year, but AB InBev Efes saw its fastest growth in the imported beer segment, with sales being up by approximately 31%, a trend Shpakov that said has continued into 2021.
Interest in imported beer and local producers has been underway in Russia for a few years, said Pavel Funtikov of NielsenIQ Russia, as consumer interest in niche, local products and an expanded selection of brands has grown.
Cut Market Share
AB InBev Efes, Carlsberg and Heineken are Russia's largest beer market players but the growing number of smaller brewers has cut their market share to 67.5% in 2020 from 81.7% in 2012, according to NielsenIQ.
News by Reuters, edited by Hospitality Ireland. Click subscribe to sign up for the Hospitality Ireland print edition.