Non-alcoholic drinks are becoming ever more popular in Estonia, creating gates to alcohol areas in super markets and allowing companies to advertise products that they normally are not allowed to. Sellers consider the trend a positive one for consumer behavior.
Tarmo Noop, head of Tartu Õlletehas, said non-alcoholic beer sales make up nearly 10 percent of all beer sales in the summer months and close to 5-6 percent during the rest of the year.
Noop said: "It continues to rise. Five years ago, the ratio of non-alcoholic beers was 1.5 percent of the market. I predict that it will not tka more than 10 percent of the particular category going forward though. Still a long way to go but we're moving that way."
The rising abundance of non-alcoholic beverages on store shelves does raise the question of whether this is just a method for companies to push their products and for sellers to attract customers without the limits set for traditional alcoholic beverages.
Lauri Beekman, head of the Estonian Abstinence Association (AVE), said the similarities between non-alcoholic beverages and alcoholic beverages also stick out. "In Norway, for example, it is forbidden to sell the same product in both variants," Beekman said.
He thinks this could also be considered a strategy to advertise products to minors, adding that the issue does not lie in the non-alcoholic variants, but in the similarly designed bottles. He points to a beer product named after Karl Friedrich that is also supplemented by a root beer, also named after Karl Friedrich.
Beekman does however see a positive trend: "We can say that this change is due to the worldwide 'sober curious' movement and shows the power of alcohol policy. I have not consumed them but I've heard the products have also improved in quality."
According to Noop, the increase in attention on marketing non-alcoholic beverages is true.
Noop said: "I don't deny that we have more opportunities when dealing with non-alcoholic drinks. The marketing of alcoholic beverages in Estonia is strictly regulated. I see no tragedy in public health winning because of it."
However, Noop does not agree with the statement that it is a way to popularize alcoholic drinks.
He quipped: "If we look at the beer market, it has dropped each year. Non-alcoholic beverages have grown by 25-35 percent a year. The ever-growing rate of non-alcoholic drinks has not increased the entire category."
He added that Tartu Õlletehas pays out bonuses to management based on increasing sales of non-alcoholic beverages.
Noop said a curious situation has developed as a result of the pandemic, where some alcoholic beverages have fallen behind their non-alcoholic equivalent.
Noop noted: "Although A. Le Coq Gin Long Drink is the market leader, we have noticed in some months that the non-alcoholic version selles even more. We have never noticed such a situation earlier that a non-alcoholic product could sell more than the alcoholic analogue in an analogue package."
Jürg Samel, spokesman of Selver, said the location of non-alcoholic beverages depends on the particular super market's shelf placement and location of beverages.
Samel said: "In Selver super markets, those products are generally close to soft drinks and have been so for many years. It is not related to directing people toward alcohol and for example, in Järve, non-alcoholic drinks are rather far from the alcohol section."
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste