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The big name joins the growing soft beer market: Budweiser.

Another big name – recently known NBA star Dwyane Wade – has helped the big beer brand create Budweiser Zero beer, a 50-calorie non-alcoholic beer that is now spreading across the country.

Bud Zero is only the latest entry in the category of noise-free drinks, which was under tension 18 months ago with the arrival of another big beer name, Heineken 0.0.

Non-alcoholic beer sales have risen 40% in dollars this year and increased by 30%, says Eric Shepard, vice president and CEO of Beer Marketer’s Insights, which uses IRI’s sales data from a Chicago market research.

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However, according to the Brewers Association, soft beer accounts for only about 0.4% of the total $ 116 billion beer market. “It’s an opportunity and a challenge, isn’t it?” Shepard said. “Non-alcoholic beers have been here forever, but … is the world waiting for Buda that there will be no alcohol? I think we’ll find out.”

After retiring after a 16-year career that included three NBA Championships and 13 All-Star selections, Wade said he was “at many events where he stuck a beer in my hand.”

But he didn’t always want another. “I’m getting older now, I’m not the young spy athlete people get used to,” Wade said. “But I still want to be part of the conversation. I still want to be in the room with everyone else. “

This led Wade to think about soft options and Budweiser, who published a cult retirement for his lecture last year.

“We knew we were interested in the space, but it wasn’t until we really talked to Dwyan,” said Monica Rustgi, vice president of marketing for Budweiser, that the potential “came to life.”

For Wade, non-alcoholic beer makes sense, because one can throw back only so many beers without paying the price the next morning. “I have responsibilities. I have a 19-month-old daughter (with his wife Gabrielle Union) at home, whom I have to get up at 4 in the morning,” he said. “What I like about it, for people who have a responsibility but still want to have a good time … it’s another bonus so you can continue to enjoy yourself but not wake up the next morning, super hung. I don’t feel like he left anything on the table last night with friends and family. ‘ “

Budweiser saw an increase in healthier beers, hard seltzers and growing competition from non-alcoholic beers. Its Michelob Ultra is an industry leader and the Seltzers Bud Light brand launched earlier this year. Anheuser-Busch InBev also has several non-alcoholic and low-alcohol beers worldwide, including Busch NA, and aims to account for 20% of the total by 2025.

“We have seen … a big trend and a growing space in the (non-alcohol) category. Over the next three years, we see that this growth is growing significantly. II is significant,” said Rustgi.

Bud Zero has a fresh taste with sufficient bitterness of hops and the character of grains, which could serve as a final challenge for consumers. Following the availability of Bud Zero in some markets in March, it is fully marketed at national level. Initially, Bud Zero will be available in 12 packs of 12-ounce cans and 16-ounce single cans, with six packs of bottles due in December.

The soft beer competition is beginning to attract the necessary new entrants, including craft breweries such as Athletic Brewing Co., a Stratford, Connecticut-based brewery that focuses solely on non-alcoholic beers. This is driven by consumers interested in low-calorie, low-calorie and low-carb beers, says Dave Williams of Bump Williams Consulting of Shelton, Connecticut, which provides beverage services.

Especially younger consumers eat “a little exercise, holistically, towards this arena” better for your drinks and meals, “he said.

Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.

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