Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Non-Alcoholic Beer Replacing Gatorade as A Sports Drink

In certain European sporting communities a non alcoholic beer is emerging as the sports drink of choice for athletes and the trend is now spreading to the United States.

Erdinger Alkoholfrei is made by a Bavarian brewmeister who is touting the regenerative qualities of their frothy drink, and trying to get the rest of the sporting world to buy in. Gatorade has the market on sports drinks covered, but who's to say there isn't room for a little bit of sudsy competition?

The non alcoholic beer made a splash in the United States earlier this month when several top European athletes were seen seen sipping mugs of the drink on the podium of the World Cup biathlons held in Maine.

The brewing company is selling the near beer as a vitamin rich, non additive based product that contains regenerative properties that can help any athlete recover from a tough workout faster than a typical sports drink would. As strange as this may sound, it should come as no surprise to anyone. In it's purest form beer is nothing more than a carbohydrate laden substance that can break down quickly and be absorbed by the human body. In other words, it contains everything the body needs to recover.

"It's a very healthy product," said Glenn McDonald, U.S. manager for Erdinger. "Overseas, it's very popular. It's the No. 1 non-alcohol beer in Germany."

Of course there is no such thing as a completely non alcoholic beer. By the nature of the product all beer contains a trace amount of alcohol. Erdinger Alkoholfrei contains 0 .5 percent of alcohol. While it's pretty difficult for the average human to get drunk off of that trace amount of alcohol, it does make the drink illegal to consume for those under 21 in the United States.

Erdinger first began targeting European athletes in 2001 where it was marketed as a "sports and fitness drink." The original ad campaign featured a pair of triathletes touting the benefits of the drink. The ads caught on very quickly and soon Erdinger was being served up at the finish line at various sporting events across Europe.

The 125-year-old company, which makes Alkoholfrei in the same brewery outside Munich where it turns out conventional wheat beers, promotes itself at cycling and running events in the summer. In the winter, it's one of the main sponsors of the World Cup biathlon, which combines cross-country skiing and rifle marksmanship.

"It's not bad. It's not bad," said Max Cobb, president and CEO of the U.S. Biathlon Association, based in Maine, who has sampled Alkoholfrei. "It's an interesting thought to think of the carbohydrates and everything. They're definitely something athletes need at the end of an event."

Erdinger hopes to prove it has a great beer taste that is commonly associated with well crafted German beers. The higher quality and unique taste will be what sets Erdinger apart from his non alcoholic predecessors. For those who do not remember, near beer is not a new product in the United States, Anheuser-Busch made a big splash into this market in the 1990's when they introduced O'Douls and Miller quickly followed suit when they began brewing Sharp. However, sales for both of these products saw a sharp decline in recent years as people began to realize there's no reason to drink bad beer if you're not going to get drunk.

Erdinger hopes to avoid those pitfalls, and thus open up a new and previously untapped market.


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