United States and Latin America, two possible new markets for fruit-flavoured beers
Demand for beers with a touch of fruit is spreading like wildfire in the United States. Although the beginning of the decade saw numerous launches for new fruit beers in Europe, demand for it here has now stalled. But the trend has now arrived with a bang in the Americas, both in North America and further south, with Brazil leading the boom in Latin America.
This is happening within a global scenario of falling beer consumption, which is mainly due to some countries tightening regulations and levying higher taxes on alcohol, but according to a report by the consulting firm McKinsey & Company, is also due to the rebirth of alternative drinks aimed at a more health-conscious public. This may well be why beer-based drinks with a touch of fruit and with less alcohol are making inroads into the American market.
In response to this demand, new products are being developed both by major breweries such as Carlsberg, Heineken or Anheuser-Busch InBev, as well as by craft beer microbreweries. Their new offerings are mainly beers with sensory notes of citrus, such as lemon, lime or orange, but also include sweeter fruit flavours such as peach, grape, apple or even raspberry, depending on the various tastes and beer cultures of the target countries.
A combination which is maybe not so new…
Although radlers and shandies have started to fill supermarket aisles in the United Kingdom, France, Spain and the United States only relatively recently, this combination of beer and lemon has been around for almost a hundred years.
The history of the drink goes back to 1920s Germany and the owner of a bar in Bavaria where many cyclists (called radlers in colloquial German) stopped for a drink. One hot summer’s day he realised that he was about to run out of beer, so he mixed it with lemonade to quench the thirst of his clients. This combination caused a sensation and soon radler beer became a mainstay cold drink in Germany.
Since then, people have created a host of variations around the German radler beer; there are versions with alcohol and without, and even the Beastie Boys mentioned beer mixed with orange in a song from 1986.
The rise of craft beer with a touch of fruit
In spite of the global fall in beer consumption, there is one segment which is undergoing a remarkable boom: craft beer. According to the Brewers Association, in the years between 2011 and 2016, the market share of craft beer in the United States grew 6.6 points. There are also many microbreweries that are launching artisanal beers with notes of fruit.
Blackberries, blueberries, cherries, peach, pineapple, raspberry, mango, guava and even strawberries are some of the fruits most used in brewing craft, but there is still room for innovation with other combinations.
Another upward trend, especially in the United States, is that of seasonal beer launches, to attract people buying for the holidays. Summer is for beers with citrus, offering refreshing lemon, lime or tangerine tones. In the autumn, pumpkin beers are already a Halloween classic, and are being joined by smoky flavours or even the sweet notes of maple syrup.
In the winter season, strong and spiced beers predominate, hence limited Christmas editions of beers with cinnamon, cloves, vanilla and orange peel, among other sensory notes, which are popular mainly in Anglo-Saxon and Nordic cultures.
As we said, the world of craft beer is always innovating. There are also veggie beer offerings; these are beers made with vegetables added to the hops and malts. Flavours from mushrooms, carrots, basil or even radish or sweet potatoes offer a new perspective to the most demanding palates.
Photo: Beer Street Journal
Are fruit beers just for women?
SensoExpertLab, our sensory panel, is made up of women. This is no accident. As we explained in our blog, women’s olfactory bulbs have 43% more cells than men’s and since they also have more taste buds, they have a more sensitive palate than men. This means that, in general, women can better appreciate the fruity notes of these types of beers, maybe enjoying them even more than men do.
However, good beer is for everyone, irrespective of gender, as long as its sensory effects transport us to a cool beach party, a sparkling evening with friends or a cosy Christmas market in central Europe.
Even so, according to 2016 data from the Gallup Institute, only 23% of US women say that their favourite alcoholic beverage is beer, compared to 54% of US men. In fact, one in two females in the United States prefers wine to a good beer. Therefore, the industry is focussing on beer with fruit tones as a drink to introduce women to the world of beer.