Diageo is trialling a new, revolutionary non-alcoholic version of the iconic Guinness stout in Asia, as it seeks to counter a growing government campaign against excessive alcohol consumption in the region.
Guinness Zero has been rolled out in Indonesia, as the fourth most populous country in the world moved to block the sale of beer in convenience stores as part of public health measures to combat excessive drinking. Diageo Ireland said there were no plans to launch the product here.
"Guinness Zero ABV was launched in September, 2014 in Indonesia, specifically in response to market demand in the non-alcoholic beer category, which is already well established in the market. Guinness Zero ABV has been performing very well since its launch," Diageo told the Sunday Independent.
Sam Fischer, Diageo's president for greater China and Asia, described the government actions as creating "some disruption" in an interview with Bloomberg.
Sales of Guinness rose 1pc in Ireland in the second half of 2014, bringing the brand back to growth for the first time in six years. While Ireland performed strongly, global sales of Guinness sank 4pc on the back of a weaker performance in Nigeria, Indonesia and the UK. The Diageo brand grew in a number of African markets, particularly in Kenya, which recorded double-digit growth.
Diageo and Guinness have been working to bolster sales of the stout by introducing a number of new variations of the 256-year-old beer. This included the lighter Guinness mid-strength stout, which had a lower alcohol level than the original beer.
Guinness launched its new branding and marketing campaign 'The Brewers Project at St James's Gate' to tap into the demand for craft and niche beers.
Last year, Guinness introduced a number of new products in the key Irish and UK markets, including two new porters and a golden ale. Diageo beer sales rose 2pc in the UK last year, with sales also up in the US, after launching a Guinness-branded Blonde American lager.
The new product launches have reversed a losing streak in which a number of new Guinness drinks had failed to generate significant traction and were mothballed.
The products included the infamous Guinness Light, a wheat beer called Breo and Guinness Black Lager, which was developed here and launched in 2011 before vanishing from Irish off-licences and bars last year.
Diageo, which also makes Johnnie Walker Scotch whisky, is forecasting a return to global sales growth this year after a two-year slump.