PASSERBY, CARY HEINZ: “I can't tell the difference. And I'm a real beer drinker. I'm German and this is from Holland, but it's close."
The world's largest beer brewers are betting on a new market of healthy-minded drinkers looking to unwind without getting buzzed.
After losing market share to craft beers and hard seltzers, top brewers like AB InBev and Heineken are investing in a new generation of non-alcoholic beers they say taste better to help regain ground by tapping into healthy-living trends.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN TRYING HEINEKEN 0.0: "Oh! That tastes exactly like Heineken. Are you serious?"
The world's second largest brewer launched Heineken 0.0 in the United States in 2019 and planned to distribute 10 million free cans last year before the health crisis - but the Dutch brewer believes it is back on track in 2021 with around four million free samples going to offices alone - and by holding sampling sessions like this at Pier 17 in Manhattan.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN TRYING HEINEKEN 0.0, SAYING: "That's actually really good. Tastes just like Heineken, honestly."
Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world's and the United States' largest brewer, also launched a zero version of its flagship Budweiser lager in the United States a year ago.
According to market research provider Euromonitor International, global non-alcohol beer sales fell 4.6% in 2020 after 9% average annual growth in the previous four years.
The health crisis cancelled business lunches, emptied sports facilities and with bars closed, there was no need for designated drivers - all prime territories for sales of zero alcohol drinks.
But the ending of restrictions in the US and Europe should make it easier for people to try the drinks out, says Marketing Vice-President of Heineken Brand USA, Borja Manso Salinas.
"It tastes great, that's one barrier, the other barrier in markets where non-alcoholic beer is not very developed is they don't really know when or on what occasion they are supposed to drink non-alcoholic beer. So actually, sampling in those locations helps overcome that barrier."
Europe represents almost three-quarters of non-alcoholic beer drunk, while in Japan, nearly 5% of beer sales contain no alcohol.
According to Euromonitor, the United States lags behind, with its zero alcohol market share at just 0.5%.