Anheuser-Busch is launching a wheat version of Bud Light this fall as it looks to keep growing the momentum of its best-selling brand by tapping into the growing wheat segment.
The national roll-out of Bud Light Golden Wheat the week of Oct. 5 is the second extension of Bud Light, after the St. Louis-based brewer launched Bud Light Lime last year. Bud Light Lime has since become one of the company's most successful new products.
The company has been looking to these product extensions to drive growth and bring in consumers who already know the brand but want to try something new, Keith Levy, vice president of marketing, said Wednesday. It's also a way to boost sales since the different versions typically cost more than the original, by about $1 to $1.50 more a six-pack, he said.
American Ale, a hoppier, more amber-colored version of its older sibling, Budweiser, was introduced in the fall in the hopes of wooing new drinkers to that brand.
The move to the wheat category comes as more wheat beers from craft brewers have hit the market in the past few years, Levy said. Consumers have been asking for more wheat beers since they offer more flavor, he added.
So Anheuser-Busch came up with an offshoot of Bud Light that uses unfiltered wheat, orange and coriander to give its stalwart brew a new twist. The beer has a cloudier look since the wheat is not filtered and has a sweeter taste.
"We're trying to keep it in the franchise of Bud Light but certainly give it its own look," Levy said. "We're not trying to out-craft craft. Certainly it's the personality of Bud Light but in a very different way."
Levy said the company is working on its advertising for Bud Light Golden Wheat and said it expects to spend about the same as it spent last year on Bud Light Lime's launch — around $30 million — to market it through television, national print, online and other media.
The new beer has a few more calories and carbohydrates than Bud Light: 118 calories compared to 110, and 8.3 grams of carbohydrates, up from 6.6 grams. The new brew has slightly less alcohol at 4.1 percent by volume, compared with Bud Light's 4.2 percent.
Last year, rival MillerCoors LLC tried to launch craft-style versions of its flagship Miller Lite brand, with plans to offer up a trio of versions including wheat, amber and blonde ale. The company had planned to launch the so-called Miller Lite Brewing Collection nationwide by last September. But by late July it scrapped that idea, saying it was ending testing to rethink the brand, and hasn't yet released any products.
Anheuser-Busch is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev SA, the world's largest brewer.