Michelob enters low-calorie fray

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by Graham Ridout The world's largest brewer, Anheuser-Busch, is re-entering the low-calorie lager market in the UK with the launch of Michelob Ultra....

by Graham Ridout The world's largest brewer, Anheuser-Busch, is re-entering the low-calorie lager market in the UK with the launch of Michelob Ultra. The move comes three years after A-B withdrew Bud Light ­ a low-calorie version of Budweiser that was only on the market for one year after failing to win over British drinkers, despite being the second best-selling beer in the US, behind its parent brew. Randall Blackford, A-B's Euro-pean marketing director, said: "We withdrew Bud Light because the UK was not ready for a light beer." He said that the company believed the time was now right to introduce a low-calorie beer, but stressed there were no real comparisons between Michelob Ultra and Bud Light, which had an abv of 4.3% ­ 0.7% lower than its parent. "First of all, it is not a light beer, it is a premium lager with an abv of 5% and has the benefit of being low in carbohydrates and low in calories," he said. Ultra will be targeted at "adults with an active lifestyle, who look after what they eat and drink". Blackford added: "Our research indicates that more adults who enjoy premium lagers are living active lifestyles. In addition, consumer interest in lower carbohydrate food and drink has been steadily increasing for some time in the UK. For these reasons, we expect Michelob Ultra to create significant excitement in the trade." A-B will be stressing Ultra's low "carb" and calorie credentials (2.5g and 88, respectively for a 275ml bottle) by running adverts that contain figures of how some of its competitors compare. A-B claims Stella Artois contains 9.2g and 117 calories for a 275ml serving, Beck's contains 8.8g and 113 calories, WKD contains 35.2g and 223 calories, and Smirnoff Ice has 25.9g and 177 calories. A-B brewmaster Jill Vaughn said Ultra, which is being produced at the Stag Brewery in Mortlake, is "brewed using an expanded mashing process that breaks down the long-chain carbohydrates into smaller simple sugars". Ultra was first introduced to the US market last year and Blackford said sales were three times higher than anticipated and the brand had now overtaken Smirnoff Ice in the ready-to-drink sector.

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