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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

DOJ watchdog to probe whether officials sought to alter election results

Donald and Melania Trump exit Air Force One in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Jan. 20. Photo: Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images

The Justice Department's inspector general will investigate whether any current or former DOJ officials "engaged in an improper attempt to have DOJ seek to alter the outcome" of the 2020 election, the agency announced Monday.

Driving the news: The investigation comes in the wake of a New York Times report that alleged Jeffrey Clark, the head of DOJ's civil division, had plotted with President Trump to oust acting Attorney General Jeffery Rosen in a scheme to overturn the election results in Georgia.

2 hours ago - Podcasts

Google's chief health officer Karen DeSalvo on vaccinating America

Google on Monday became the latest Big Tech company to get involved with COVID-19 vaccinations. Not just by doing things like incorporating vaccination sites into its maps, but by helping to turn some of its offices and parking lots into vaccination sites.

Axios Re:Cap goes deeper into what Google is doing, and why now, with Dr. Karen DeSalvo, Google's chief health officer who previously worked at HHS and as health commissioner for New Orleans.

Biden signs order overturning Trump's transgender military ban

Photo: Tom Brenner/Getty Images

President Biden signed an executive order on Monday overturning the Trump administration's ban on transgender Americans serving in the military.

Why it matters: The ban, which allowed the military to bar openly transgender recruits and discharge people for not living as their sex assigned at birth, affected up to 15,000 service members, according to tallies from the National Center for Transgender Equality and Transgender American Veterans Association.