Anheuser-Busch is hoping to attract young drinkers with its new Bacardi Silver watermelon-flavored drink.
updated 4/7/2005 5:01:41 PM ET 2005-04-07T21:01:41

Anheuser-Busch Cos., the nation's biggest brewer, is adding a watermelon-flavored brew to its Bacardi Silver lineup, hoping it will give a warm-weather boost to a company with suddenly sluggish sales.

Bacardi Silver Watermelon is the latest flavored malt beverage, or “malternative,” whose sweet taste is expected to appeal to people in the 21-27 age group, Geri Hirsch, brand manager for High End Products at the St. Louis-based brewer, said Wednesday.

Anheuser-Busch accounts for nearly half the domestic beer market. Its Budweiser is the best-selling full-calorie beer and Bud Light is the No. 1 light beer.

But the brewer this week lowered its profit outlook for 2005 on weaker-than-expected U.S. beer volume in the first quarter. Sales to wholesalers dipped 2.7 percent from last year and domestic beer wholesaler-to-retailer sales slipped 1 percent.

The three-year-old Bacardi Silver line is part of the company's effort to diversify its product line. In January, Anheuser-Busch rolled out B-to-the-E — a brew spiked with caffeine, fruit flavoring, herbal guarana and ginseng. It launched Budweiser Select, a low-carb, low-calorie beer, last month.

Sales in the malternative category have cooled off. Among all brands, 6.3 million barrels were shipped in 2002, said Benj Steinman, editor of the trade publication Beer Marketers' Insights. That dropped to 5.3 million barrels in 2003 and 5.15 million barrels a year ago.

Hirsch would not discuss sales of the Bacardi Silver line, but Steinman said Anheuser-Busch shipped about a half-million barrels in 2004, down "double digits" from a year earlier.

Steinman said the Bacardi Silver drinks make up about 10 percent of sales in the malternative market, and only one-half of 1 percent of total Anheuser-Busch sales.

Bacardi Silver Watermelon will be packaged in six-packs of 12-ounce bottles along with a 24-ounce single serve bottle.

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