How Athletic Brewing Co. dominates the booming nonalcoholic beer market


Nonalcoholic beer is having a moment.

Once a rarity on store shelves, nonalcoholic beer saw a 39% jump in sales growth in 2020. The trend is proving to outlast the Covid-19 pandemic. Sales of nonalcoholic beer grew 32% in 2023, compared to the year before, adding to data from NielsenIQ.

The pandemic-led adoption of nonalcoholic beer is largely attributed to growing health and wellness trends. Both drinkers and nondrinkers want lower-calorie and healthier options in social settings. Shoppers may have noticed some established names coming out with their own offerings of nonalcoholic beer, including Budweiser Zero and Heineken 0.0.

Founded in 2017, Athletic Brewing Co. opened the doors to its nonalcoholic craft brewing facility within a year. Unlike other brewing companies, Athletic Brewing didn't cut its teeth making alcoholic beer before pivoting into nonalcoholic options. Instead, Athletic Brewing was founded on the idea that nonalcoholic beer didn't need to be a niche category with limited offerings.

Fast forward to 2024, and Athletic Brewing is now dominating the nonalcoholic beer market. According to NielsenIQ data, Athletic Brewing represents 19% of the domestic nonalcoholic beer market, making it the top nonalcoholic beer brand in the country.

"Every night, I'd be out to work dinners with friends, family, weddings, bachelor parties, barbecues — everything was a drinking occasion, essentially," said Athletic Brewing co-founder Bill Shufelt, in an interview with CNBC. "There were no options or offerings to more moderate options. I'd be up at 5 a.m. to work out to start the next day. The market just wasn't keeping up with my busy, modern lifestyle."

Watch the video above to learn how Athletic Brewing went from a startup craft brewery in Connecticut to Whole Foods' top-selling beer brand in under a decade.