CHINA – ZX Ventures, global incubator and venture capital arm of AB InBev has unveiled intentions to expand its low-alcohol craft beer portfolio in China to capitalize on the country’s growing beer market.

According to a FoodBev report, the innovation incubator launched in 2015 aims to explore the low- and no-alcohol craft beer category in China, where consumers prefer low-strength beers.

“I think non-alcohol will be really relevant for us,” said Nicolas Morelli, head of craft and specialties, APAC North, at ZX Ventures.

“We have low-alcohol beers within our portfolio; it’s not something that is so relevant yet in the craft community globally, but we are seeing more and more brands are doing it.”

According to AB InBev, 20% of the company’s sales volumes will come from its low- or no-alcohol portfolio by 2025.

Speaking on the company’s full-year results in March last year, AB InBev CEO Carlos Brito revealed a strategy to focus on expanding sales and appeal to consumers who want to limit their alcohol intake.

According to him, in the previous year, 8% of the company’s volumes came from its low- or no-alcoholic lines.

ZX Ventures revealed that in China, it is initially targeting growth in Beijing and Shanghai and then aiming to expand into other cities.

“We need to explore more 2% alcohol or 2.5% alcohol,” said Morelli.

“We are starting to have in different trials of zero alcohol. I think it’s really tough to do to be honest.

“We have the technology to do it in our brewery in Wuhan, but it’s really tough to do a zero-alcohol beer because the technology that you need to actually do it, it’s a little more complex.”

In 2017, AB InBev acquired the Boxing Cat and Kaiba beer brands, both based in Shanghai.

Last year, the company opened a new craft brewery in Wuhan, China producing beers for its Goose Island, Boxing Cat and Kaiba brands in order to tap into the growing market for premium beers in the country.

It has unveiled plans to launch a new amber lager next month, first in e-commerce and then in other channels.

This will also be followed by the introduction of both Pirate Life and Four Pines, the Australian craft breweries that AB InBev acquired in 2017 to China, mainly available through online retail.