German brewery markets no-alcohol beer in US as a sports drink

non alcoholic beer

German brewer Erdinger is trying to increase its North American market share by marketing no-alcohol Alkoholfrei at sporting events. Image: CC Allan Gathman/Flickr

A German brewing company is aggressively marketing its brand of non-alcoholic beer as a sports drink. Erdinger of Bavaria is hoping that its  Alkoholfrei defies the downward trend of non-alcoholic beer sales in the past decade. Erdinger claims that Alkoholfrei helps athletes recover without the dehydrating effects of alcohol.

Erdinger bets U.S. has a taste for Alkoholfrei

Beer has a long tradition of being associated with sports marketing in the U.S., but positioning a non-alcoholic beer as a legitimate sports and fitness beverage is a new idea. Erdinger has been promoting Alkoholfrei as a fitness beverage in Europe since 2001. Alkoholfrei has grown popular in Europe and Erdinger hands out free samples at both grass roots sporting events and major competitions. Erdinger products are sold in 45 U.S. states, and the brewery has decided to step up promotion efforts for Alkoholfrei to increase its market share in North America. At a February World Cup biathlon event in Fort Kent, Maine, elite European athletes on the podium held huge mugs of Alkoholfrei along with their skis and rifles.

Beer: the isotonic sports drink

Erdinger Alkoholfrei looks like beer, with an auburn color and foamy head. The non-alcoholic brew allegedly tastes like beer as well. The brewing company markets the brand as an “isotonic” sports and fitness beverage, rich in carbohydrates and vitamins that help athletes recover from a workout or competition. Along with ethanol, beer generally contains sodium, potassium, carbohydrates and B vitamins, but trainers and sports nutritionists say the levels of those regenerative compounds in beer are not high enough to make a difference in recovery for serious athletes. At least without the alcohol, Eerdiner Alkoholfrei will help athletes rehydrate.

Will real German beer taste matter to Americans?

In the U.S., non-alcoholic beer hit the mainstream in the 1990s with O’Douls from Anheuser-Busch and Sharps from Miller. But sales for those brands have been in decline for more than a decade. Erdinger is trying to convince Americans that Alkoholfrei tastes like real German beer in a way the other non-alcoholic beers don’t. At nearly $10 a six-pack for Erdinger Alkoholfrei, whether Americans can accept that price for a German beer with no buzz or a European energy drink without the sugar high remains to be seen.


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