Move over atkins, need a seat on the express!
April 3, 2010 7:38 AM   Subscribe

Beer! Specifically the low carb kind. The Scandinavian beer industry demands a premium for this kind of beer, anywhere from $.50 or $1 on each half liter. Are there actually extra production costs for the everyday, run of the mill lower carbohydrate type flavored water? Or is this just extra profit in the brewers pocket? The science behind would be appreciated.
posted by Funmonkey1 to Food & Drink (9 answers total)
Any product which sells in low quantity will cost more. No economy of scale.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:45 AM on April 3, 2010

In addition, products that have a unique perceived benefit can have a higher price tag associated with it regardless of whether it was or cheaper or more expensive to produce versus the normal product.
posted by mmascolino at 9:45 AM on April 3, 2010

This is a proposed Norwegian marketing plan for low carb beer brands Tuborg Lite and Ringnes Lite, written in 2007 by five students at NTNU. It's written in Norwegian. According to the paper, they received some information from Ringnes, but no information regarding production costs and/or marketing costs. In section 7.3 they write (my translation to English):

"Pricing is perhaps the most important instrument Ringnes AS has to position the Lite products in the existing market. (...) A large part of the consumers are willing to pay more for a healthy and/or well tasting product, and it is this segment Ringnes AS wants to target with their pricing."

I assume that's exactly what they are doing: charging more because people are willing to pay more for low carb beer compared to regular beer. The same psychological pricing also applies to for example tea bags (at least in Norway): Lipton green tea costs more than Lipton Yellow Label.
posted by iviken at 10:07 AM on April 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Low carb beer means regular beer that's watered down. That's all it is. That MGD 64 thing? 2.8% ABV.
posted by Rhomboid at 11:44 AM on April 3, 2010

Two ways to make low-carb beer:

1) Make a regular strength brew in volume X with the intent to water it down to volume Y. This brew, in its "X volume" - more dense state will be made with a flavor profile that is yucky in that regime, but which, when diluted, works. Hops aroma and bittering are more potent than the malty taste imparted by flavonoids from the grain and far more potent than the flavor characteristics and fusel alcholos produced by the yeast. Thus, your volume X starting point will be relatively low in hops and waaayyy too high in malt flavor. Then you water it done. This production method has a cost differential to "regular" beer that is negligible on the scales at which commercial breweries operate.

2) Start out trying to make a flavorful, low carb, low alcohol (alcohol converts to carbs in metabolysis, as you know) in its final volume. Much harder to do and requires more precise control of some variables but the difficulty is in recipe formulation and control of the mash and boil processes - these are things commercial breweries are already quite adept at. Also, no negligible cost difference here.

As other posters have pointed out - cost difference is either due to minimal demand depriving the product of economies of scale or the perceived value which permits imposition of luxury pricing.

You might consider just making your own. It's not hard, not expensive and quite enjoyable as a hobby.
posted by BrooksCooper at 12:44 PM on April 3, 2010

Low carb beer means regular beer that's watered down.

Ringnes Lite and Tuborg Lite has the same alcohol content as regular Ringnes/Tuborg: 4,5%.
posted by iviken at 3:24 PM on April 3, 2010

Ringnes Lite and Tuborg Lite has the same alcohol content as regular Ringnes/Tuborg: 4,5%.

Right, but what did the initial stock have in it?

If this is the route a brewery is going, I would suspect that they convert more starch to fermentable sugar in the mash and probably have a yeast that is a bit more robust than you use for regular beer. Prior to dilution the proto-low carb beer might have the same carbohydrate concentration but contain 8% alcohol.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:53 PM on April 3, 2010

I thought commercial breweries adjusted mashing temps to maximise B-amylase activity, fast sparged to leave residual starches in the mash and added enzymes (γ-amylase? not sure) to break down residual starch the yeast won't touch.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:57 PM on April 3, 2010

Thanks for the great answers. Iviken thanks for finding the study. I always hate paying an extra 30kr for beer that has the same alcohol level and still manages to taste like piss water :)
posted by Funmonkey1 at 10:15 PM on April 3, 2010

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