Beer, the new ‘sports drink’

2011-02-22 07:30

Portland – Beer is not just for couch potatoes any more.

A Bavarian brewmeister is touting its non-alcoholic beer as the latest sport drink for athletes, handing it out at the finish line of sporting events and touting its regenerative benefits.

Erdinger Alkoholfrei (“alcohol free”) is served up with a frothy head. And it comes in one colour – a golden hue – unlike conventional sport drinks.

Several top athletes from Europe quaffed the beverage from giant mugs on the podium of the World Cup biathlons held this month in northern Maine.

The company touts the beverage as an isotonic, vitamin-rich, no-additive beverage with natural regenerative powers that help athletes recover from a workout.

In other words, it’s carbohydrate-loaded refreshment without the alcoholic buzz of beer or the jitters caused by some energy drinks.

“It’s a very healthy product,” said Glenn McDonald, US manager for Erdinger.

“Overseas, it’s very popular. It’s the No. 1 non-alcohol beer in Germany.”Even though it’s called alcohol-free, Alkoholfrei still contains less than 0.5% alcohol.

That makes it verboten (prohibited) for anyone under 21 in Maine.Other states, like California, allow minors to buy alcohol-free beer.

Promoted as a “sports and fitness drink,” Erdinger began targeting athletes in 2001 in Europe with an advertising campaign featuring a pair of triathletes.

Its popularity quickly grew in Europe, where it’s often distributed for free in the finishing area of sporting events.

Marketing beer as a sport drink for athletes is a new concept in the US, though McDonald points out that Alkoholfrei can be enjoyed by anyone, not just athletes.

Whether Americans – couch potatoes and athletes alike – are ready to embrace another no-alcohol beer is unclear.

Sales of no-alcohol beer have been declining for more than a decade in United States, so any new entrant faces an uphill battle, said Benj Steinman, editor of Beer Marketers Insights.

Erdinger, which is already sold in 45 US states, has identified Alkoholfrei as a priority brand as part of a larger push into North America, McDonald said. 

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