>>How is one of last year’s top launches faring?

Product: Michelob Ultra
Company: Anheuser-Busch
Launch date: August 2003

Anheuser-Busch’s journey back to the low calorie beer market with the launch of Michelob Ultra in August last year has failed to make much of an impact.

According to ACNielsen, the 5% abv beer captured just 0.19% of the packaged lager market, valued at £221m, in the four weeks to August 7 2004, with sales of £418,000.

As well being low in calories, the beer is low in carbohydrates and the brewing giant said it would appeal to adults who led active lives.

At the time of launch buyers had already voiced concern that the UK consumer may not be ready for the health-orientated newcomer.

However, one year after Michelob Ultra beer first hit shelves, it is not all bad news because the buyers’ worst scenario has not happened and the tipple has not been written off as a complete loser. “It is too early to tell whether it’s going to be a winner. But the beer certainly needs to achieve a higher ongoing sales level,” says Nisaway category controller Rob Large.

According to Large, the success of the product will depend upon the support it receives from the supplier. “It needs both above-the-line and below-the-line support otherwise it will probably fall away and not become an established brand,” he says.

Drinkers in the UK have previously failed to embrace low calorie beers. Anheuser-Busch was forced to withdraw Bud Light in 2001 in spite of its successful launch in the US in 1998.