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Big Brands' Nonalcoholic Line Extensions - Beer Leads, Spirits to Follow?

The flavor of nonalcoholic beer is far ahead of that of spirits (and I think wine, but I know a lot less about wine both alcoholic and not). And now that it is, nearly all the largest beer brands have released nonalcoholic line extensions recently. Off the top of my head: 

  • Nonalcoholic paulaner and tsingtaoBlue Moon
  • Sam Adams
  • Corona
  • Guinness
  • Tsingtao
  • Paulaner Weizen-Radler
  • Peroni
  • Sierra Nevada
  • Heineken
  • Stella Artois
  • Dos Equis
  • Weihenstephaner Hefe
  • Budweiser
  • Coors
  • Brewdog
  • Beck's

This is interesting because until the past couple of years, for the most part, nonalcoholic beer, wine and spirits were not line extensions of existing alcoholic brands, but startup brands with different identities (Seedlip, Lyre's, O'Doul's). I think this indicates: 

  • Nonalc has finally become popular enough for brands to justify the line extension, and more importantly
  • Brands are less scared of having an NA line extension that devalues the core brand



Spirits Soon to Follow? 

On the spirits side, the same trend is probably next, but there's a problem....

Nonalcoholic spirits line extension from existing spirits brands include: 

  • Damrak gin
  • Tanqueray (not in US)
  • Beefeater (not in US)
  • Martini & Rossi
  • Sipsmith (not in US)
  • WhistlePig (limited release)
  • Four Pillars (not in US)
  • Seagram's (not in US)
  • Amaro Lucano
  • Pallini Limoncello

Clearly brands are dipping their toes into the category, but you can see how cautious they're being compared with beer.

The problem is that most nonalcoholic base spirits are nowhere as good as their alcoholic counterparts, and so they very well may diminish the reputation of the flagship brand. 

I've tried a bunch of nonalcoholic gins, for example, and none taste anything like gin. Most taste like old lady soap. I hope to try the brands available outside the US at some point, but I am not super hopeful given what I've tried locally so far.

The liqueur and amaro categories, on the other hand, can do better. The sugar in them carries flavor, and they are flavored spirits to begin with, unlike the usually sugar-free base spirits. 

I'd guess that we'll see more spirits/liqueur products that are line extensions - there's room for nonalcoholic Campari (or NA Campari & soda, which kind of exists already), Montenegro, Amaro Nonino, Kahlua, Bailey's, and Malibu. I'm guessing we'll see some of those by next Dry January. 

But base gin, vodka, bourbon, tequila, etc.? I have to agree with the logic of not releasing a bad version of good products. 




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