The likelihood of a new vaccine to prevent coeliac disease may be enough to deter would-be entrants to the gluten-free beer market, according to the country’s leading gluten-free brewer.
O’Brien Beer founder John O’Brien told Australian Brews News that the market for gluten-free beer could shrink markedly if ImmusanT Inc. is successful in bringing the Nexvax2 vaccine to market.
“The vaccine would be made available in the USA and Australia, subject to approval, with other countries soon after I would assume,” he said.
“If the vaccine reduced the market by 75 per cent, the remaining 25 per cent market in the USA would still be a sizeable market compared to even Australia’s 100 per cent current market of course.”
O’Brien was reacting to US brewer MillerCoors’ recent predictions of a huge future for gluten-free beers, as reported by trade publication just-drinks.
MillerCoors marketing vice president David Kroll reportedly said gluten-free is an “exploding” food segment in the US, where around 10 per cent of alcohol consumers are now choosing gluten-free products.
“Scaling gluten-free beer has the potential to bring lost drinkers back to beer,” he said.
In February, MillerCoors launched Coors Peak Copper Lager in the US, a 4.7 per cent ABV gluten-free beer.
John O’Brien suggested the major Australian brewers would be unlikely to follow suit, with or without a vaccine for coeliac disease.
“I hear rumours from time to time that the big guys are doing some investigation into gluten-free beer and perhaps even doing some trials, but nothing seems to have come of it,” he said.
“I’m sure they’ve looked at it and perhaps the numbers haven’t stacked up for them.”
O’Brien planning 10th anniversary brew
O’Brien said gluten-free was a difficult market to get established in, but O’Brien Beer had managed to achieve steady growth of between 10 and 20 per cent a year since launching, when there were virtually no other beers available for coeliac sufferers.
“We’ve been going for ten years and we were the first in the market, so that gave us a slight advantage. I would think someone who was looking to start up now would find it very difficult, as we would,” O’Brien said.
Out of O’Brien’s four permanent beers on the market, Premium Lager is its most popular, followed by the Pale Ale.
The brewer also releases four seasonal brews a year, including the currently available Belgian Ale, which in 2013 became the first ever gluten-free beer to win an AIBA Gold Medal.
“We will also be releasing a limited edition O’Brien beer in August this year to celebrate our 10 year anniversary,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien Beer is available nationally through Dan Murphy’s, BWS, 1st Choice Liquor, as well as selected Liquorland and Vintage Cellars outlets and independent liquor stores.