The Shout Magazine (New Zealand)

Brewing sector sees more than 100% increase in alcohol-free beer consumption

The New Zealand brewing sector has seen a more than 100% increase in alcohol-free beer consumption but overall beer consumption sees a decline due to COVID-19, according to the latest data released by Stats NZ.

Dylan Firth, Executive Director of the Brewers Association of New Zealand, says the release of ‘alcohol available for consumption’ data from Stats NZ shows beer under 1.15% produced for the year ending December 2020 increased 105%.

“This shows that New Zealanders are getting in behind the no-alcohol category and following international trends in the beer market,” he says.

“Thanks to the investment in the low/no alcohol beer category from major brewers, consumers are becoming more accepting and familiar of the low/no-beer as a quality product.”

However, Firth says within the positive trend of consumers choosing innovative products, the brewing sector has been hit by the ongoing changes to COVID-19 alert levels.

“Overall, beer available for consumption was down (-1.4%), where both spirits (+5.2%) and wine (+4.3%) were up,” he says.

“This reflects the continued return to Level 3 in Auckland and March 2020 lockdown impacts on the brewing sector. Unlike spirits and wine, beer consumption in most cases makes up a larger proportion of sales in hospitality environments vs wine and spirits.”

Firth says the brewing industry, like many other sectors in New Zealand, had a difficult 2020.

“With two of the most valuable channels to market closed during the March 2020 lockdown, through bottle stores and hospitality venues and the yo-yo-ing of alert levels in recent months, this has had a real impact on those in the brewing industry.”

Firth says there is a real need for targeted support for the hospitality sector in New Zealand, especially given the fact the government declined to support the sector by refunding excise tax on kegs that were spoilt during last year’s lockdown.

“How to best target that support is something the Brewers Association will be approaching the government about,” he says.

“Producers have supported the wider hospitality sector by taking back kegs that cannot be sold, investing in marketing campaigns and assets to assist bars and restaurants as well as other support.”

Firth says the COVID-19 Support Payments and wage subsidy remain critical to the basic survival or many outlets, as they help cover operating expenses, but they will not suffice to keep many operators from going out of business, with consequential impact on employment, GST and income tax revenue.

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