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Heineken beer bottles. Photo: Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Last year was the best in a decade for Heineken, the world’s second-largest beer maker. One of the big drivers was its alcohol-free Heineken 0.0, which was launched in the summer of 2017, and is now seeing sales grow at a double-digit clip.

Why it matters: Defying the laws of reason and good sense, alcohol-free beer has become an important segment of the beer market, per Wall Street Journal's Carol Ryan.

The big picture: While non-alcoholic beers make up just 5% of beer volume sold worldwide, the category has grown at 3.9% on average for the past 5 years compared with 0.2% for traditional beer. A report from GlobalData finds that non-alcoholic beer is the fastest growing segment of the beer market, just ahead of strong beer.

  • Budweiser maker AB InBev says it plans to generate at least one-fifth of its global beer sales from low-or-no alcohol brands by the end of 2025.
  • "You could expect 10 to 15 years down the road this would be more or less the global trend," senior Heineken brand director Gianluca Di Tondo told Reuters when it launched Heineken 0.0.

How it works: The popularity is apparently the result of a confluence of increased health consciousness among younger consumers and FOMO.

  • "Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of their alcohol intake and see low-alcohol and alcohol-free variants as a healthier alternative, while still allowing for participation in traditional cultural events," Andrew Curran, Beverage Analyst for Canadean, told Food&Wine in 2017.

Details: It's also the result of growing popularity in places like the Middle East where alcoholic beverages are prohibited by law. The Middle East now accounts for almost a third of worldwide sales by volume of non-alcoholic beer.

  • Despite overall beer declines between 2011 and 2016, consumption of non-alcoholic beer in Germany increased 43%, according to Euromonitor International. In China, about 30% of the new beers launched in 2016 were non-alcoholic, according to market research firm Mintel.

Surprise: While non-alcoholic beer has traditionally been seen as a replacement for alcoholic beer, today, one in five low-or-no-alcohol products sold is replacing a soft drink, according to a recent UBS survey.

Go deeper: Bud Light to begin disclosing nutrition facts

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Sports

Swimmer Chase Kalisz first American to win Tokyo Olympics gold medal

Chase Kalisz of Team United States celebrates after winning the Men's 400m Individual Medley Final on day two of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images

Swimmer Chase Kalisz has become the first Team United States Olympian to win gold at the Tokyo Games.

The big picture: The Rio 2016 silver medalist's winning time in the men's 400 meters Individual Medley Final was 4 minutes 9.42 seconds. His teammate Jay Litherland took silver, .86 seconds behind him. Moments later, Kieran Smith grabbed a third medal for the U.S. when he won bronze in the 400-meter freestyle.

Go deeper: Full Axios coverage

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

DOJ won't investigate nursing home deaths in N.Y. and 2 other states

People who've lost loved ones due to COVID-19 while they were in New York nursing homes attend a March protest and vigil in New York City. As of this month, Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The Department of Justice has decided not to launch a civil rights investigation into whether policies in New York, Pennsylvania and Michigan contributed to pandemic deaths in nursing homes, according to a letter sent to Republicans.

Why it matters: The Trump DOJ requested data from the three states plus New Jersey last August "amid still-unanswered questions about whether some states, especially New York, inadvertently worsened the pandemic death toll by requiring nursing homes to accept residents previously hospitalized for COVID-19," per AP.

Former Blizzard CEO says he "failed” women at the studio

Image: Neville Elder / Getty Images

Mike Morhaime, who co-founded and worked at video game studio Blizzard for 28 years, has apologized publicly for toxic work conditions at his former studio, which is now the subject of a discrimination and harassment lawsuit by the state of California.

Why it matters: Morhaime is no longer at Blizzard, but was its leader for most of its existence and therefore was in charge when much of what is alleged in California’s suit would have occurred.