After many years as an adult beverage powerhouse, sales of traditional beers have been weakening. This has encouraged brewers everywhere to develop specialty suds that include many health and wellness additions. Today, consumers can find beers with antioxidant-rich fruits such as blueberries and pomegranates, strength-enhancing vitamin-infused beers and even herbal-enhanced beers.
No doubt, health pegs are major selling points for food and beverage right now. But is a pomegranate brew more at home in the juice aisle than in the beer section?
Tom Vierhile, director of Productscan Online, a retail research firm, sees the beer category's health kick as a drive toward a more sophisticated image. It's also a way to make the beverage more palatable to a wider audience, namely the category's forgotten consumer — women.
“I think that beer makers are really envious of what's happening in the wine industry,” Vierhile said. “Wine has really developed a reputation as a sophisticated, healthful alcoholic beverage.”
Manufacturers of healthful offerings claim they're upholding the stout virtues that define a good brew. They may not be in the same company as heady European ales, but they certainly don't belong with the Snapples and Nantucket Nectars.
Runi Hadniprajitno, general manager at Madison, Wis.-based BluCreek Brewing, said his popular blueberry and herbal ales, with their rich amber flavor and aroma, don't have the same bitter edge as traditional brews. As a result, he said, he's been able to sell to a wide audience, including health-conscious consumers and those formerly turned off by beer in general. Last year sales for the company, founded in 2000, doubled.
“There are a lot of people who don't like beer's bitter aftertaste,” Hadniprajitno said. “And we heard a lot of people saying that there was nothing out there to entice them to try. So we were, like, ‘OK!’”
The makers of Stampede Light take a more macho marketing stance. Owner Lawrence Schultz markets his B vitamin-infused offering as “The Power Beer,” seeking the gym-loving, club-hopping crowd. He also points to hearty qualities in his beer while disparaging most light brews.
“Not only do most light beers taste bad,” he writes on the company website. “They also don't do anything for you except give you a little buzz.”