Non-alcoholic malt beverage is a category that is currently booming in the Middle East. According to Hamidreza Alavi of the Iranian Association of Non-Alcoholic Malt Beverage Producers, consumption of non-alcoholic malt beverage in Iran is about 5 litres per capita per year (carbonated soft drinks is 22 litres) and this is set to reach 10 litres per capita by 2021, reported Iran’s Financial Tribune in June 2015.
In Malaysia, the strong participation of non-alcoholic malt beverages at the recently concluded Malaysia International Halal Showcase (MIHAS) 2016 is a testament of the keenness of non-alcoholic malt beverage producers to grow this category in the country. The fact that these non-alcoholic malt beverages – 3 Horses (United Dutch Breweries), Bavaria (Bavaria Brewery) and Barbican (Aujan) were allowed to be showcased at the prestigious MIHAS show the tacit approval of the organiser for non-alcoholic malt beverages. At the fair, Malay Muslim consumers were seen trying out non-alcoholic malt beverages possibly for the first time. But outside of the fair, these non-alcoholic malt beverages are considered ‘haram‘ (non-permissible) in the eyes of most Malay Muslim consumers due to the lack of the official JAKIM’s stamp of approval.
Non-alcoholic malt beverage distributors in Malaysia are targeting the Middle-Eastern restaurants for the time being as Middle Eastern consumers are more familiar having consumed these drinks back in their home countries. But pushing the sale of non-alcoholic malt beverage for the majority Malay Muslim consumers will be difficult without the endorsement of JAKIM, the issuer of the halal certification in Malaysia. Most of the non-alcoholic malt beverage distributors are applying for halal certification with JAKIM but this obviously takes time.
At MIHAS, the distributor of 3 Horses assured consumers that 3 Horses does not contain alcohol citing lab test carried out by the Iran-based Islamic Chamber Research and Information Center (ICRIC). The Malaysia Biotechnology Corp has also confirmed the non-alcoholic malt beverage is 100% free from alcohol.
Heineken’s Indonesia subsidiary to export Fayrouz
PT Multi Bintang, Heineken’s local unit in Indonesia, recently announced plans to export non-alcoholic malt beverages. Egypt is one country is mind for the export of Bintang Zero and Radler Orange. The company has recently launched Fayrouz and Bintang Radler Lemon 0.0% in Indonesia.
In Indonesia, Bintang Zero, Guinness Zero and other zero alcohol beer are considered by the country’s halal certifying body LPPOM MUI as ‘haram‘ because of the lack of the halal certification. However, this does not prevent Indonesian consumers from consuming non-alcohol beer. Halal certification is not mandatory in Indonesia. Not all companies opted to have their products certified citing the high cost of compliance.
Malaysia has stricter understanding of Halal
Compared to Indonesia, Malaysian Muslims have a stricter interpretation of halal. The only way to reach out to Malaysian Muslim consumers is to have a halal logo. The zero alcohol Malta malt drink has remained out of reach to the broader Muslim market because it is considered not halal by the local authorities. The only way for non-alcoholic malt beverages to take off in Malaysia is to first gain approval from JAKIM and this is the only way forward.