Peroni Nastro Azzurro 0.0% Launch 2

Asahi, which produces Asahi Super Dry, Peroni Nastro Azzurro and Pilsner Urquell, forecast zero- and low-alcohol drinks could generate half of the company’s beverage sales by as early as 2040.

Atsushi Katsuki said the company was planning to expand its line-up of alcohol-free beverages through investments in start-ups, as a growing number of health-conscious consumers turn away from traditional beer, wine and spirits.

“It’s a big opportunity as long as we can go down the premium path,” Katsuki told the Financial Times. “Among global players, we have a strong advantage since we have capabilities in both beer and alcohol beverages as well as soft drinks.”

Asahi recently outlined an ambitious target to increase the share of beverages with 3.5% alcohol or less from about 10% last year to 20% of its product mix by 2030. Katsuki said he wanted to bring that to half by as early as 2040 or 2050.

The world’s biggest brewers, including Heineken, Budweiser and Guinness, are competing to capitalise on health-conscious, younger consumers. The shift has resulted in consumers drinking less but higher-quality alcohol, or choosing low-alcohol or alcohol-free versions.

Low to no is attractive to Asahi and its rivals as the products have higher margins than soft drinks, and non-alcoholic drinks can be more profitable than beer because they do not incur alcohol taxes.

The value of the market for alcohol-free or low-alcohol beers is more than $13bn, according to drinks analytics group IWSR. It forecasts the no-alcohol share of the overall alcohol market will grow to nearly 4 per cent by 2027.

Asahi, which acquired Fuller’s brewery in 2019, could resume large acquisitions after reducing its debt, but Katsuki said there were no big attractive targets for now.

In the new category of no- and low-alcohol beverages, he added that the company would invest more in start-ups to gain the technology and capability to produce more beverages in small volumes.

“The US market is the best and biggest market for us, and it’s also the missing piece for us,” Katsuki said, adding that the company wanted to expand sales of its flagship Super Dry brand in the US. “We’ve always said we want to do M&A, but there is currently no target for us.”