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Designing beer without the booze.

When it comes to zero-alcohol drinks we’ve gone well beyond the lemon-lime-bitters. Consumers want to enjoy their favourite alcoholic beverages without the alcohol. Beer, wine, spirits, cocktails, all booze-free.

The global market for alcohol beer alone is expected to reach AU$49.2 billion by 2030. We’ve seen booze-free bars and popups in Melbourne, Sydney, and other cities around the globe. The zero-alcohol movement is just getting started.

But how do you design for brands where the new product is also the exact opposite of what it used to be? Alcohol, without alcohol.

Well, there are a few design approaches we’ve spotted in non-alc beer. Crack open a cold one and let’s dive in.

Premium education

In a market now flooded with craft zero and low-alc options, it’s easy to forget that premium, big-name brands were on the scene first. And branding had a big role to play in bringing consumers on-side with a new way to beer.

0% alcohol beers needed a big education piece with cut-through. Design-wise, that meant focusing on making that 0% big and bold, and attaching it clearly to the master brand. A new thing becomes normal, familiar and backed by that brand recognition.

The message being: this big name is now bringing a 0% beer to the table for traditional beer-lovers, and it’s all a-ok.

Crafty contenders

Once the major players were established, it was time for disruption.

Heaps Normal launched as a purely alcohol-free brand from day one. Without the big name backing, it more important to dial in on that story and voice, find a niche among the craft beer lovers and change the conversation.

“A designer, a brewer, a pro surfer and a ginger walk into a bar and order a round of alcohol-free beers…”

And consumers embraced it: a zero alc option for cool young people, by cool young people, who want a lifestyle of doing cool things. Consumers saw a label that stressed the benefit rather than the percentage: “Delicious, refreshing nonalcoholic beer”. With a striking, message-forward design and a cheeky craft beer brand voice (“Too good to be wasted”), Heaps Normal was making alcohol-free drinking cool and, well, heaps normal

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Designed to fit in...

When craft breweries released their own zero alc, they were designed to fit seamlessly within the core range. Brands such as Hop Nation, James Squire, Bridge Road, Urban Alley, and Brick Lane designed tinnies and bottles to fit into the standard line-up of products. You couldn’t pick the zero-alc out by look alone.

A new product was just an extension of the brand that had evolved to meet demand.

What did consumers see? That loyal fans of a brewery could still reach for the beer they love and trust the quality and flavour would meet their expectations. Just the next chapter of the same craft brewery story (and boy do they love a story.)

…or to stand out

An Aboriginal-owned family company, SOBAH resonates with consumers for very different reasons.

For one, the whole beer range taps into foodie trends with ethically sourced native Australian ingredients like finger lime, pepperberry, and wattleseed. SOBAH also carved out their place with a strong ethical standpoint around sobriety, promoting First Nations creators and supporting the wellbeing of Indigenous communities.

And there’s a solid consumer base that clearly thinks this is pretty compelling in their shopping choices.

So sure, you can grab a can of SOBAH for the unique flavours, but you might also pick a tinnie for the ethics, the social impact or the support of First Nations artists. Pick to be a part of it, or because it represents part of you.

It’s designed to grab attention and win hearts and minds – then tastebuds.


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