Nutrition Labels & Low-Alcohol Beer: Should Craft Beer Care?

Hot on the heels of the Brewers Voluntary Disclosure Initiative from the Beer Institute that encourages brewers to voluntarily include caloric and nutritional information comes the story that A-B InBev is forecasting that their low-alcohol and alcohol-free beers will make up 20% of the company’s sales by 2025. Both of these stories came out shortly after Brewbound posted this story about craft beer drinkers, in particular millennials, being interested in healthy habits like taking time off from drinking, viewing alcohol as a special treat, and being in favor of nutritional information.

Mobilize, craft beer, because Anheuser-Busch has just declared its new war against you.

When you have about 22% of the world’s market share in beer (this currently only includes Anheuser-Busch InBev and not its soon-to-be acquisition, SABMiller, which has about 10% of world market share) and about 50% of the market share in the United States alone, your “forecast” of what will make up your portfolio in 10 years’ time is more like a guarantee. If AB-InBev wants consumers to care about low-calorie and alcohol-free beer, it will make consumers care about the calorie and alcohol content of their beer.

Before I go further, I will point out that I get the utility of alcohol-free beer. Anecdotally, people who don’t drink for whatever reason sometimes seem to make people around them who are partaking feel uncomfortable for a myriad of reasons. Being able to have something that looks and smells like beer in your glass probably saves you from having to withstand a barrage of questions. On the other hand, mind your own beeswax and don’t demand answers from someone who is choosing not to drink.


I imagine ad campaigns emphasizing how easy it is to know the calorie content of big beer while emphasizing how you probably won’t find nutritional labels on a lot of craft beer. What is craft beer hiding?

Or something along the lines of those god-awful ads aimed at women (think: talking about birth control and yogurt choices while in a yoga class) wherein one concerned women asks her friend if she knows that the craft beer she just ordered contains !gasp! more than a hundred calories. Or a bunch of dudes hanging out around a grill and one of them turns down that craft beer offered by his friends because he doesn’t want to get a Dad bod. Is Dad bod still a thing? Probably not, but I’m sure advertising will have found a new way to make us feel terrible about ourselves by the time these ads roll out.

Here’s the thing: if you’re a regular craft beer drinker, you get it. You get that your beer choice can be high in calories but maybe choose not to think about it too much.

I’ve made my choice: I can be 15-20 pounds lighter or I can drink all the beer I want and generally eat well, but occasionally dip fried foods in ranch dressing and/or sometimes make totchos for dinner. Sometimes even dip said totchos in ranch dressing. Life is all about choices, people, and I choose to cover life in beer, melted cheese, and sometimes ranch dressing.

But I’m not the target demographic for calorie counts on beer labels and lower alcohol beer. In fact, I may even be in the ads as the craft beer drinker with ranch dressing in her hair (an actual problem for me, by the way) who you definitely do not want to be like.

I’m not sure how craft beer can counteract this next maneuver by big beer or if it even needs to. I vacillate between thinking the new push for lower alcohol and nutritional labels is something craft brewers should keep at the back of their minds and thinking it probably won’t affect craft beer all that much.

Should craft brewers be thinking about how they can respond to their customers in the future who want it to be easier to find out how many calories are in their beers? Should they not worry about it because craft beer customers presumptively know their craft beers have more calories than a low-calorie beer?