Often people refer to alcohol-free and non-alcoholic beverages as two different names for the same product. This isn’t entirely true. While both are considered ‘de-alcoholised’, the title alcohol-free or non-alcoholic refers to the level of ethanol (alcohol) in the final product. A non-alcoholic wine or beer will always have trace amounts of alcohol left in the final beverage, however the amount will always be minuscule and in most cases will be less than 0.5%. To put this into context, fruit juices that aren’t pasteurized (a heating process used to kill bacteria) before sale can also naturally ferment to 0.5% alcohol. So, a non-alcoholic drink will contain roughly the same amount of alcohol as homemade orange juice that is left to ferment for a few days.
Alcohol-free wine or beer on the other hand means a beverage that contains 0% alcohol. These are the type of beverages that are permitted in countries with alcohol prohibition or certain religions with an alcohol restriction such as Islam.
So why do some companies create non-alcoholic beverages with trace amounts of alcohol left over when they could all make alcohol-free beverages that would increase the range of countries they could sell into? There is a couple of reasons: Firstly, it is cheaper and less time consuming to create non-alcoholic beverages as the company doesn’t need to repeat the dealcoholisation process as many times to make sure that the alcohol is removed. They simply need to bring it under a certain threshold. Secondly, many companies prefer to leave some alcohol in the product to bring the taste of their non-alcoholic beverage closer to that of an alcoholic beverage, thus making the drink more palatable for someone who still drinks alcoholic beverages on occasion or for someone simply looking for an alternative.