Heineken clarifies its alcohol-free beer aimed only at non-Muslims in Malaysia

Heineken has clarified that sales of its non-alcoholic Heineken 0.0 beverage in Malaysia are targeted only at non-Muslims aged 21 and above.
Heineken has clarified that sales of its non-alcoholic Heineken 0.0 beverage in Malaysia are targeted only at non-Muslims aged 21 and above. PHOTO: HEINEKEN

PETALING JAYA - Dutch brewing company Heineken has clarified that the sale of its new non-alcoholic malt beverage, Heineken 0.0, is aimed towards non-Muslims only amid concern that its name could be misleading for Muslim customers.

In a statement on Saturday (July 13), Heineken Malaysia Berhad reiterated that the beverage is non-halal and targeted only at non-Muslims, aged 21 and above, as was mentioned during the company's product launch and in previous media reports, The Star reported.

Alcohol is forbidden for Muslims, who make up the majority of the multi-racial population in the country.

"All Heineken 0.0 products are only available at the non-halal zone of supermarkets and convenience stores, with clear signage indicating that the product is strictly for non-Muslims, aged 21 and above only," it said.

"In addition, for stores without designated non-halal areas, we are placing clear signages to inform consumers that Heineken 0.0 is strictly for non-Muslims, aged 21 and above," it added.

The company said the beverage was targeted at non-Muslim consumers, who wish to moderate their alcohol consumption.

"The purpose for introducing Heineken 0.0 in Malaysia is to provide a choice for non-Muslim consumers who enjoy the taste of beer, but not necessarily the effects of alcohol, particularly beer drinkers who seek to moderate their alcohol consumption as part of a balanced lifestyle," it said.

It also said the "Now You Can" tagline attached to Heineken 0.0 refers to the various new occasions that the drink can allow non-Muslim consumers to enjoy a beer, including lunch, work meetings, or driving.

Launched in Europe in 2017, Heineken 0.0 is said to have the taste, but not the effects of an alcoholic beverage. The drink also has a negligible amount of alcohol by volume, at 0.03 per cent, compared to the regular Heineken which has five per cent alcohol. Each 330ml bottle has 69 calories, compared to around 150 calories in a regular Heineken.

The country's top Islamic body, the Malaysian Islamic Development Department, had on Saturday informed Muslims in a post on Facebook that they were prohibited from drinking soft drinks made from the same process as those of alcoholic drinks. It said this was the case regardless of whether the drinks contained any alcohol.

Meanwhile, beer manufacturers in the country were on Sunday (July 14) told to ensure they do not confuse Muslim customers by producing alcohol-free drinks, the Bernama news agency reported.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Mujahid Yusof stressed that using the term alcohol-free beer could cause confusion among Muslims.

"Using the name alcohol-free beer is confusing as the process of producing the drink including distillation is carried out in the system used to produce alcohol products," Datuk Mujahid told reporters.

"We know the alcohol-free drink is produced by a beer manufacturer but it would cause confusion as some Muslims thought they could consume the drink," he said.

Muslims, he said, should not to consume products if they are unsure of the halal status.

Heineken, in its statement on Saturday, said the company is "culturally sensitive" in their operations, and that all its marketing materials show visible disclaimers that Heineken 0.0 is strictly for non-Muslims aged 21 and above only.