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Large brewers taking niche beers mainstream

NEW YORK – It may seem heresy to purists, but flavored beers are going mainstream as brewers reach for sales growth.

Sales of flavored distilled spirits and niche and upscale “craft” brews have shown that a splash of citrus, vanilla, berry or other flavorings go a long way with younger drinkers.

“The name of the story is growth, and the only way to get share is to come out with something different,” says Frank Walters, research director at Impact, which tracks spirits sales.

Now, mainstream Bud Light will try for a taste of the action. Anheuser-Busch will introduce Bud Light Lime (with real lime juice) in May with a $35 million marketing push. Its decision to flavor a flagship brand and not create a new label signals a change in attitude by beermakers.

“By putting the Bud Light name to it, Anheuser-Busch is signaling that they envision some kind of mainstream opportunity,” says Benj Steinman, editor of industry newsletter Beer Marketer’s Insights. “It’s not just a small niche. Otherwise, they would not put the Bud Light name to it.”

Miller Brewing, meanwhile, is expanding package options for its second season for Miller Chill, a light beer flavored with lime and salt. Julian Green, a Miller spokesman, says the company decided to give the brew its own Miller Chill label and not make it a variety of Miller Lite because marketers believe it sounds “more premium.” It first was test marketed in Arizona and a few other states.

The brew will be sold in fancy, slim, 12-ounce cans and 16- and 22-ounce aluminum bottles, as well as the original glass bottles.

A-B, the world’s largest brewer, took its first swig only last spring, with Michelob Ultra in Pomegranate Raspberry, Lime Cactus and Tuscan Orange Grapefruit flavors.

Last month, came Budweiser & Clamato Chelada and Bud Light & Clamato Chelada, beers mixed with Clamato Tomato Cocktail, a clam-juice-flavored, bloody mary-type mixer.

“The palate for consumers has broadened, and they are looking for more variety,” says Dave Peacock, vice president of marketing.

He says he expects the $1 price premium per six-pack for lime over regular Bud Light to offset an expected 20 percent decline in regular Bud Light sales as some buyers switch.

“Loyalists don’t want lime beer,” Peacock says. “But about 29 percent of beer consumers have some form of sweeter palate.”

Coors Brewing, meanwhile, will continue to offer seasonal flavors for its fast-growing, Belgian-style Blue Moon brand. Blue Moon seasonal brews include pumpkin for fall, lime for spring, honey for summer and dark Belgian sugar for winter.



Any beer, wine or spirit available in Arizona, but not on the shelves at your liquor or grocery store, can be special ordered. See store for details.

Here are details on the Tucson liquor stores that stock specialty wines, beers and liquors, including selections from France.

AJ’S FINE FOODS 2805 E. Skyline Drive, 232-6340

THE BEVERAGE HOUSE • 6250 N. Oracle Road, 219-6424, • 4231 E. 22nd Street, Suite 141, 323-6566, and • 8660 E. Broadway, 296-9933

BEVMO! 6228 E. Broadway, Suite 100, 514-0695

CATA VINOS WINE SHOP 3063 N. Alvernon Way

58 DEGREES & HOLDING CO. • 5340 E. Broadway, 747-5858 and • 4280 N. Campbell Ave., 529-2020

MAGEE ROAD LIQUORS 7980 N. Oracle Road, 297-9113

PASTICHE WINE SHOP 3025 N. Campbell Ave., 325-3333 pasticheme.com

PLAZA LIQUORS AND FINE WINES 2642 N. Campbell Ave., 327-0452

RUMRUNNER WINE & CHEESE CO. 3131 E. First St., 326-0121

VINO 100 10110 N Oracle Road, 575-8466 vino100.com

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