July 26, 2009

Kirin Beer's Surprise Hit Product: Alcohol-free Beer...


Aside from uncomfortable psychological triggers, another reason why most former drinkers generally don't like to discuss "alcohol-free" beer is that it's not really free of alcohol. Surprised? In the US, "non-alcoholic" is defined as anything with less than 0.5% ABV and in the UK, "no alcohol/alcohol free" is defined as not more than 0.05% ABV. That's definitely NOT "non-alcoholic" in most people's books.

We now have a case with 0.00% alcohol-free beer having less alcohol than a glass of orange juice...which often has small negligible amounts of naturally-occurring alcohol.

Many inside Japanese brewing company, Kirin, were actually very skeptical that such a product would have any future in a country like Japan, where drinking alcoholic beverages seems very ingrained into the culture. So, they were taken aback when sales soared and they actually sold out of product.

This is probably not a good product recommendation for any recovering alcoholic who is not yet 100% comfortable in their sobriety especially if the taste of beer might provide a psychological trigger for relapse.

Those who think they might have a drinking problem and want to take a stab at controlled drinking and/or moderation, might find this useful however.


Alcohol-free brew surprise hit in beer-loving Japan
Thu Apr 23, 2009 2:01pm EDT
By Taiga Uranaka

TOKYO (Reuters Life!)
- Japanese thirsting for a beer, but not the buzz, are quaffing an alcohol-free brew that is a first in a country with a strong drinking tradition.

There are many beers on the market from all over the world that are labeled as non-alcoholic, but brewer Kirin Holdings, which makes "Kirin Free," claims its brew is the only one with 0.00 percent alcohol.

In Japan, alcoholic drinks are defined as those that are 1 percent or more proof.
"Those drinks, albeit in very small amounts, contain alcohol," said Kirin spokesman Kuniaki Tamai, referring to the drink's competitors. "Restaurants and shops had not been able to loudly tout them as non-alcoholic drinks either."

Non-alcoholic beer is a niche product in Japan, home to several brewers such as Asahi and Sapporo whose drinks are as popular at home as abroad.
Japanese businessmen and executives regularly go out for drinks after work, and beer has long been one of the country's most popular alcoholic drinks.
But Kirin, one of Japan's biggest brewers, said demand for its drink, which it advertises as a soda with a beer-like taste, has been overwhelming.

Earlier this week, it ran adverts in newspaper apologizing for the shortage of "Kirin Free" due to stouter-than-expected demand.

Kirin said demand was especially strong among drivers and pregnant women who did not want to take in alcohol. A few years ago, the government introduced stiffer penalties for drunk driving.

"We are hearing from pregnant customers who say they like it because it has no alcohol content," said Kirin's Tamai.

A 350ml can of Kirin Free costs around 150 yen ($1.5), while regular beer is priced at about 220 yen ($2.2).

The popularity of the new product is a rare bright spot for Japan's beer industry, which faces sober reality at its main market. The country's beer market shrank by 15 percent in volume in the past decade amid aging demography and diversifying taste. ($1=98.30 Yen)

(Editing by Miral Fahmy)


Anonymous said...

As far as I could tell, this product looks like it's only available in Japan. Any idea on when it might be headed for the US?

steel said...

Sorry no idea. My guess is that it might take some time. Of all the brands that Kirin brews, they only seem to distribute two in the US - "KIRIN ICHIBAN" and KIRIN LIGHT" ( see http://www.kirin.com/beers.htm )