NEW YORK (MainStreet) – Facing falling sales and a growing threat from craft brewers, big brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev is launching a gold-plated spinoff of one of its most popular beers.
The company announced Thursday the impending release of a new beer in its Budweiser line, Bud Light Platinum, which will hit shelves Jan. 30. Much like Bud Light Lime, the beer will be an offshoot of the immensely popular Bud Light. But this new beer seems to depart from its predecessors in a key respect: It isn’t all that light.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Bud Light Platinum will have 137 calories per 12 ounces. That’s significantly higher than most light beers – the original Bud Light has just 110 calories – and nearly as much as Budweiser, which has a calorie count of 145.
While the company did not respond by press time to confirm or deny the calorie count to MainStreet, it did reveal another key attribute of the beer: It will have an alcohol content of 6%, well above what is normally found in light beer. Given how much alcohol contributes to a beverage’s calorie count, it’s likely that the new brew will indeed have nearly as many calories as the brand’s regular lager.
So why create a light beer that isn’t all that light?
“Basically, they’re capitalizing on the ‘light’ part of the Bud Light name and hoping that they have a sufficient customer base to capture interest in something that isn’t really a light beer anymore,” opines Matt Simpson, who runs TheBeerExpert.com.
But the company is doing more than just trying to capitalize on its brand name. In a press release, the company says that Bud Light Platinum will be an “upscale light beer option” with a “slightly sweeter taste,” both of which suggest that it is being introduced in response to specific trends in the market.
“As the economy recovers, people are looking for a more premium brand,” says Agata Kaczanowska, a beverage industry analyst for research firm IBISWorld. “And the sweeter taste will appeal more to women. … The share of women beer drinkers has increased gradually over the five years to 2011 and is anticipated to continue over the five years to 2016.”
Of course, any actions by the major brewers must be considered in the context of the threat posed by craft brewers. Craft brewer revenue grew by an impressive 12% last year, while Anheuser-Busch InBev just announced that sales in North America fell by around 3% in the third quarter of 2011. Clearly, the brewing giant is feeling some heat to compete for drinkers’ taste buds, and hopes that Bud Light Platinum will be a step in the right direction.
But unless the new beer is leaps and bounds ahead of its previous offerings, it’s unlikely to gain much traction among craft beer lovers.
“I don’t speak in absolute terms very often, but I can say without any manner of hesitation that the craft beer market will not be attracted to this,” says Simpson.