updated 3/11/2005 8:01:46 AM ET 2005-03-11T13:01:46

Heineken NV said Friday it will introduce a low-calorie, low-carbohydrate beer branded with the Heineken name in the United States, hoping to gain more of a growing segment within a stable market.

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The new beer, "Heineken Premium Light," will compete with domestic brands like Anheuser-Busch Cos.'s Michelob Ultra and SABMiller PLC's Miller Lite, as well as foreign brands like InBev SA's Beck's Light — and Heineken's own Amstel Light, the best-selling foreign light beer.

According to Heineken, light beers made up 47 percent of the U.S. beer market in 2004, up from 44 percent in 2000.

Heineken executives said the new beer would help the company "capture an ever-growing share of the premium import segment of the U.S. beer market."

There is a "growing need among the U.S. consumers for higher-quality light beer brands that have a premium cachet," said board member Marc Bolland.

Sales of Heineken and Amstel Light rose by 5 percent and 2 percent respectively in 2004, after several lackluster years, "thanks to the introduction of new packaging and successful sponsorships," the company said.

Heineken recently hired American actors Brad Pitt and John Travolta for a new ad campaign.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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