Breaking Barriers in Brewing: IMCD's unconventional approach for reducing alcohol and sugar concentration

In early 2023, France modified its regulations for imported speciality beers. Breweries that had previously been excluded from paying a very high tax for products with a sugar concentration higher than 35 g/l would no longer have that exemption. The change left a mid-sized traditional brewery that exports globally with two options: reduce the sugar concentration or the alcohol concentration of its beer.

Knowing this regulation change was likely approaching, the brewery had been searching for a solution before they turned to IMCD. The challenge for IMCD was to modify the beer so it would fall below the minimum sugar concentration level — without losing the taste and mouthfeel consumers had come to enjoy.


Rising to the Challenge

The most common alternative, a high-intensity sweetener, was not an option in this case because it would affect the total sugar concentration. Because of IMCD’s expansive portfolio of ingredient solutions, the team was confident they could solve the brewery’s challenge while still satisfying consumers.  

“To stay aligned with the product the brewery supplied elsewhere, the sugar-reduced beer had to maintain the same sweetness perception,” says Tim Maes, IMCD Segment Expert - Beverages and Brewery specialist. “When you lower the sugar concentration, you reduce sweetness and mouth-feel, so it was important that the offered solutions would boost the sweetness perception and maintain the same mouth-feel.” 

IMCD’s technical expertise, combined with its strong partnerships with a taste supplier and a malt extract supplier, produced a solution that met the customer’s needs. IMCD and its suppliers conducted a joint visit to provide technical support to the customer’s research and development centre. Working collaboratively toward a singular goal ensured an effective solution. 

A Satisfying Solution

"With ingenuity, we took on this challenging customer request," says Jana Cools, Taste Account Manager of IMCD Benelux. “Striving to comply with new regulations, we reduced both the alcohol and sugar concentrations. Flavours are an unconventional approach in the brewery industry, but in this case, it helps to enhance the sweetness perception and mouthfeel, resulting in a tasteful beer. Daring to think outside of the box led us to an even more successful result than expected.” 

Lowering the sugar and alcohol concentrations to meet the change in regulations did not compromise the taste of the product. IMCD’s solution offered the same flavour and mouthfeel while reducing alcohol by 40% and sugar by 30%. Ultimately, the customer was able to avoid paying the increased taxes while still offering a quality product.  

To further support the customer, IMCD provided a stock contract to ensure a steady supply at a larger volume. Offering the stock contract was important for production and distribution, especially in light of the current risk of market disruption when supply and demand fluctuate.

Future Focus

After online beer sales expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic, e-commerce sales are now positioned for long-term growth. According to Innova Market Insights, that growth also comes with a shift in consumer desires. More people are taking a closer look at what they choose to drink and raising concerns for sustainability, including how producers make and package beverage products.  

Consumers are also looking for drinks that support a healthier lifestyle. With alcoholic beverages, they are more mindful of their alcohol intake, with many younger consumers choosing non-alcoholic alternatives. 

Stricter regulations for beverages are not necessarily new, especially in the soft drink industry. In the future, other European countries may consider modifying their regulations for sugar concentration in beers. Gain insight into the consumer trends that are shaping the food and beverage industry. 

As industry regulations change and consumer trends evolve, solutions like this one are crucial. IMCD, its suppliers, and its brewery customer are prepared for these changes — with confidence that they can continue to offer quality products that meet regulations and consumer needs. 

Inspired by this concept? Discover IMCD non-alcoholic beers and get in touch with our expert team.