The beer wars are about to get a lot lighter.
Corona and Amstel have introduced new low-cal beers as they chase Michelob Ultra, whose so-called superior light beer continues to surge. But Ultra is not sitting still. The Anheuser Busch InBev-owned brew is introducing an even lighter line extension this week called Ultra Pure Gold. It has 85 calories, 10 less than regular Ultra, and will be marketed as containing "organic grains."
With the low-cal beer trend booming, analysts have begun referring to the offerings as "fitness beers," which reflects the athletic-themed marketing approach that Ultra has successfully deployed for years. But while some of the surge is driven by health-conscious consumers, brand image is also playing a big role. After all, the growth for low-cal beers comes as traditional light beers like Bud Light and Coors Light, whose calorie counts are not much higher, continue to struggle.
"Ultra just has a better image than Bud, Miller and Coors, and so now there are brands coming on top of Ultra trying to have a better position than Ultra," says Benj Steinman, publisher of Beer Marketer's Insights. Even if they cannibalize regular light beers, brewers could still gain because the low-cal beers are typically priced at a premium.
Corona-owner Constellation Brands this week is beginning a national rollout of Corona Premier, which checks in at 90 calories, compared with 148 calories for Corona Extra and 99 calories for Corona Light. Premier was earlier sold in some regional markets with ads by WPP's Cavalry plugging "lower calories, lower carbs, higher expectations."