Smart Drinking: An interview with Genius Brewing

As many people look to adopt healthier drinking habits, we take a look at the "low" alcohol drinks market. The 'Low & No' market offers lower alcohol options for consumers who still want to have the occasional beer but are conscious of the amount of alcohol they are drinking.

Firstly, some terms and definitions to get to grips with in the market:

  • No alcohol = 0.05% ABV or lower
  • Low alcohol = 0.5% - 1.2% ABV
  • Lower alcohol = no legal or regulatory definition, however this is often considered to be drinks with up to 3.5% alcohol

We asked our friends at Genius Brewing to tell us more about their business in the lower alcohol sector and the causes for growth in this market.

Where did the inspiration for the business come from?

Genius Brewing has a simple mission: to make responsible drinking a pleasure rather than a compromise. In April 2018, we launched our ‘smart drinking’ ethos with Gen!us Craft Lager – the UK’s first light craft lager. Brewed with the finest pilsner malts and three hop varieties, Gen!us is 3% ABV and only 72 calories per can – less than an apple!

The craft beer revolution has re-calibrated people’s expectations of quality. But it comes at a cost: high ABV and a heap of calories. The industry hadn’t recognised that today’s drinkers want a great beer but one that won’t damage their health. When we looked at the UK market, there was nothing that offered craft quality but with less alcohol and low calories.

Now, a year since launch, Gen!us is in Scotmid across Scotland and the Central Belt’s smart wine shops and gastro-pubs, as well as the Gleneagles Hotel.

Is it the lower-alcohol or the low calories that attract the consumer more?

The growth of smarter, ‘mindful’ drinking is massive. In the US the two top-selling beers are now light beers, while Michelob Ultra is the fastest-growing brand. Where the US leads, the UK often follows. It’s no surprise that AB Inbev expects low and no-alcohol beer (less than 3.5% ABV) to amount to a fifth of beer sales by 2025.

The big brands are rushing into the zero-alcohol space but, for most beer drinkers, no alcohol is just no fun. There is very little on offer in lower-alcohol – the natural ‘moderation zone’. In 2017, Bud Light launched in the UK and AB Inbev recently launched Michelob Ultra but neither beer could be called “craft.”

The popularity of lower-alcohol drinks is not just about 14 unit-aweek limits. Consumers are also counting calories, and that includes men. Today’s smart drinker wants quality with less alcohol and low calories. Gen!us is only 72kcal per 330ml can – 29% less than Coors Light and 24% less than Bud Light.

Do you think that, generally, people are more concerned now with health and how much they are drinking?

From skinny lattes to spin classes to lower ‘safe drinking’ limits, the social and legal trend toward healthier lifestyles is clear. Probably the biggest driver is rising affluence and the awareness that better health leads to happier lives.

Is there still a social element to drinking that nondrinkers are missing out on?

There’s no doubt that alcohol is woven into our social culture and this is where it could be said non-drinkers and drinkers of zero-alcohol products miss out. While it’s known that alcohol consumption increases cancer rates, it’s also known that moderate drinkers live longer, on average, than teetotallers.

On the flipside, we know excessive drinking is bad for our health and bad for our social behaviours. Moderation is the road to happiness.

Do you have any plans for expansion of the business or product range?

Unlike most craft brands, Genius Brewing will only produce one beer – our Gen!us Craft Lager. We feel the potential in the craft/premium space for a quality, healthier lager is huge. By focusing on a single product, we can maximise brand recognition and offer a precisely differentiated USP to the on and off-trades.

Is the low alcohol market becoming more crowded as big brands start to offer options for the health conscious drinker?

It’s important to differentiate between the ‘no’ and ‘low’ segments. The mega-brewers are piling into ‘no-alcohol’ with the likes of Heineken 0% and Budweiser Prohibition, but we see this as a different market with limited long-term growth. The ‘lower alcohol’ segment is much more interesting yet sparsely populated.

The full interview is available in our Spring 2019 Food & Drink Newsletter.

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