Heineken is hoping to tap into the boom in lower-abv beers with the launch of a 2% Foster’s lemon-flavoured lager.
Foster’s Radler, a mix of Foster’s and natural lemon concentrate, hits shelves next month and is aimed at 18 to 25-year-olds seeking “moderation and refreshment”, according to Heineken.
In German, ‘radler’ literally means ‘cyclist’ and the word is now used to describe a refreshing shandy-style drink that was popularised by cyclists in the 1920s.
Radler-style beers performed well in Europe, said Heineken, which claimed its new lager would help develop a “mid-strength moderation category” that could be worth £300m.
The new drink will be sold in four, six, 12 and 15-packs of 300ml bottles alongside premium brand extension Foster’s Gold (4.8% abv), which launched in 2011.
Heineken is planning promotional activity including gondola end displays and an ad push from April.
The launch follows the rollout a year ago of Carling Zest, Molson Coors’ 2.8% abv citrus-flavoured lager.
The lower-abv beer category had been attractive to brewers following a change in duty rates in 2011 that means beers at 2.8% abv or below are charged 50% less tax than standard beer.
The change prompted a flurry of launches that have helped to drive a 39% year-on-year hike in sales of beers at 3.3% abv or below to around £62m - or about 1.7% of beer market [Nielsen 52 w/e 5 January 2013].
The overall beer market, on the other hand, is struggling - 2012 had the lowest final-quarter volumes in 14 years, according to BBPA figures.
“The lower-abv market is still very small but is showing strong volume growth, which is something seen in few drinks categories at the moment,” said Nielsen analyst Helen Stares.