InBev will launch Stella Artois 4%, the first of several new additions planned for the brand this year, into the off-trade in mid-August.
This is the first time the brewer has launched a product into the off-trade first, with the on-trade launch scheduled for November.
The new beer, in which the company is investing "significant millions", was developed specially for the UK. It is triple rather than double-filtered, smoother and has less alcohol than the 5.2% Stella Artois.
The move was an attempt to reposition the brand into the emerging 'premium everyday' market rather than an attempt to shift the focus from the mother brand, said MD Stuart MacFarlane.
Traditionally the UK has segmented the beer category by abv, though it is the only market in the world to do so, with beers below 5% abv classed as standard and those above as premium. This emerging market of below-5% beers with a premium image, such as its own Beck's Vier, was currently the biggest opportunity in the beer category, said MacFarlane.
InBev's own estimates put growth in this sector in the past two years at 466% to £158m. "This move into everyday premium has been happening in all other categories but in beer we have been slow," said MacFarlane. "When you think about Walkers Sensations or Magners you can see a move from everyday to premium everyday."
About 58% of consumers only drink standard lager while 42% drink both premium and standard lager. The company believes the new 4% offer will draw new drinkers into the brand from the standard category rather than stealing share from the original beer.
Stella Artois 4% will be sold in 440 and 500ml cans though MacFarlane says the company may look at bottles. The brewer is recommending the cans be sold at £3.29 for a four-pack, which is a 9% premium to the rest of the standard market and 70p less than the current rsp for a four-pack of 5.2% Stella.
More new beers are expected this year. MacFarlane also hinted at a new look for Stella in the next six months.