Low-alcohol beers appear to be gaining in popularity in the off-trade, thanks in part to lower duty on beers below 2.8% abv, with sales at one supermarket rising by almost 50%.

Figures from educational beer website www.beergenie.co.uk showed that Tesco had seen low-alcohol beer sales increase by 47%, while Sainsbury's had registered a 26% rise.

Other factors, aside from the lower rate introduced in October 2011, included customers choosing lower-abv beers for health reasons, and improvements in the quality of low-abv beers.

Andy Tighe from BeerGenie said: "The Government's halving of beer duty in October 2011 on beers of 2.8% abv and below has led to an explosion in innovation from breweries across the country. These lower-alcohol beers have been brewed in an excitingly diverse range of beer styles from light lagers, to shandies, soft milds, hoppy pale ales and earthy or chocolatey stouts."

"Beer already has a lower alcohol content than either wine or spirits. With a summer of celebration ahead of us, this is a great opportunity to take advantage of the great range of beer styles available today - whether that is a small glass of one of our supremely British old ale's or barley wines, or a refreshing long glass of one of these new low-alcohol gems. Non-alcoholic and low-alcohol beer, for years a long-neglected category, now find themselves among the growing plethora of colours, styles and flavours of beer available in the UK."

Tesco's specialist beer buyer, Chiara Nesbitt, added: "The growth, particularly for non-alcoholic beers, is remarkable as they were previously frowned upon by drinkers who considered them thin and tasteless."

Tesco stocks 13 2.8% abv beers, including: Becks Premier Light; Rolling Rock; Labatt Blue; Carling C2; Guinness Mid Strength; Bavaria 2.8%; Cains Calcutta Pale Ale; Fuller's Mighty Atom; Marston's Shandy; Marston's Genuine Pale Ale. Tesco's original range included Mann's Brown Ale, 2.8% abv.

Is small beer getting big? >>

Punch trials 2.8% ABV beers in some of its pubs >>

Molson Coors launches Carling Zest in 2.8% beer bracket >>

By Neil Gerrard

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