New Zealand: Light beer sales up 60 per cent on tougher drink driving laws
By John Anthony
November 19, 2015
Healthier lifestyles and new drink driving laws are being credited for soaring light beer sales.
DB Breweries says supermarket sales of lower alcohol beer have increased by more than 60 per cent in the 12 months to November 1.
In the previous 12 months it grew more than about 200 per cent.
DB Breweries spokesman Matt Wilson said a trend towards health and well-being in New Zealand had helped the rise in popularity of light beers, as had lower drink driving limits which came into force in last December.
But the definition of light beer varies widely.
Under the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code low alcohol beer must contain less than 1.15 per cent alcohol while under the Advertising Standards Authority light beer must be less than 2.5 per cent alcohol.
DB considered light beer to be anything below 3 per cent alcohol, Wilson said.
The big brewer, owned by Heineken, also referred to lower alcohol beer as the “moderation category”.
Nielsen, which compiled the supermarket sales data, defined light beer as anything up to 3.4 per cent, he said.
DB Breweries recently even gave one of the world’s most well-known beers a lower alcohol makeover with the release of 2.5 per cent Heineken Light.
The lower alcohol Heineken was only available in New Zealand and was a world first for the Dutch lager which usually has an alcohol content of 5 per cent.
The light beer segment in New Zealand could account for more than 7 per cent of total beer sales within two years, Wilson said.
“If you look across the ditch to Australia, lower alcohol is around a quarter of the total beer market, so our estimate is conservative.”
However, Australia had a lower excise tax on lower alcohol tap beers, he said.
“If you were drinking a 330ml glass of Amstel Light in New Zealand, you’d pay around 14 cents tax. In Australia, you’d pay more like 4.”
New Zealand’s light beer category was growing from a small base sitting at less than 1 per cent of total beer sold prior to October 2013.
Since then annual grocery sales for light beer in New Zealand had grown by about $14.4 million, he said.
Craft beer, which made up an estimated 13 per cent of beer sales by value in New Zealand, was growing about 42 per cent per year.