AB InBev brings another light beer back to the UK

After it relaunched Bud Light in the UK last year, AB InBev is bringing its low-alcohol Michelob Ultra beer back to British shores to cash in on rising demand for non-alcoholic and light beers.

According to data from Nielsen, sales of no- and low-alcohol beers in UK supermarkets and other off-trade sites have risen 20% year-on-year in 2018.

Following the relaunch of Bud Light in February in the UK last year, Michelob Ultra will be rolled out nationwide in major supermarkets and convenience store chains from October.

The lager, brewed to 3.5% ABV and due to be available 355l cans, is the “fast-growing beer brand in the US for the past four years,” according to its producer.

AB InBev states that the launch is in response to British demand for beers brewed between 0.5% and 3.5% which “complement a balanced, active and social lifestyle”.

In the week ending 14 July 2018, Nielsen reported that sales of alcohol-free beer were up 27% – the equivalent to over 43 million pints. Meanwhile, in the same period, UK consumers bought more than 86 million pints of low-alcohol beer, a 16% rise on the same period last year.

Research conducted by CGA also found that a third of pubs and other licensed venues that it surveyed reported that health trends were noticeably reflected in consumer spending in the last year, with two-fifths of venues stocking more no- and low-alcohol products to cater for demand.

While current demand for low-alcohol products is strong, when AB InBev first brought Michelob Ultra to the UK in 2003 it wasn’t a hit. The story was similar for Bud Light which was first rolled out in the UK in April 1999 but was subsequently scrapped following a reported £5 million advertising and marketing campaign.

In the last 12 months, AB InBev states, Bud Light was the fastest-growing lager brand in the UK, adding £30.5m to its value and increasing volumes by 24% compared to last year.

The beer giant added that 7% of its UK portfolio is now within the no and low-alcohol category. It is aiming to increase this figure to represent 20% of its global volumes by 2025.

Tatiana Stadukhina, marketing director for AB InBev UK & Ireland, said: “We have a responsibility to help drive a shift to smart drinking, and brewing great quality low and no alcohol beer is a fundamental part of that. While we’re proud that these beers are on the rise in the UK, we have lots more to do to cement low-and-no-alcohol options in popular culture and social settings and recognise that we don’t have all of the answers.

“We must work with the wider industry and Government to promote the development and adoption of lower-strength beers and change social norms for the better. We want to accelerate towards our goal of no-alcohol and low-alcohol beer reaching 20% of our volumes by 2025 and can’t wait for the UK to try Michelob Ultra when it hits shelves next month”.

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