Labatt is launching an army’s worth of new Buds to compete with wine, spirits, and craft beers. Buckle up, booze snobs—big beer isn’t going down without a fight.
A silver briefcase was delivered to my front door last month, containing an invitation to a party at UNIUN nightclub. The invite was flanked by two aluminum bottles, painted silver and turquoise, labelled Bud Light Platinum.
Around the same time, Labatt was deploying street teams to Toronto bars and nightclubs, where they hand-picked the cool kids and invited them to the same bash. The draw? Diplo, one of the world’s top DJs, was being flown in to headline. (And beer!)
The party—and the product—were proof that the big breweries are willing to go in almost any new direction to regain their lost market share. For over a decade, Canadians have been replacing beer with wine and spirits. Beer’s share of alcohol sales fell from 52 per cent in 2000 to 45 per cent in 2011, while wine’s share rose to 30 per cent from 23 per cent. Things are worse for the major breweries, with consumers demanding more imports and microbrews: Craft beer is the fastest-growing beer category at the LCBO.
Judging by its new products, Budweiser’s response is to try everything. They’ve launched brews for every conceivable niche, from craft connoiseurs to clubgoers to beachside sippers.
Platinum is an amped-up version of Bud Light: the same highly-carbonated lager, but with a sweeter, caramel note for vodka-and-Redbull-conditioned palates. Todd Allen, Labatt’s Bud Light marketing director, says the taste is for 20-somethings who want light beer with a “sophisticated feel.”
It doesn’t matter that the beer isn’t actually light in calories or booze. The “light” label refers to “the taste characteristics,” says Allen. In fact, each bottle packs a 6 per cent punch and weighs in at 137 calories (most light beers are around 100).
Not that anyone cared at the launch party. By midnight, the dancing, flirting, and groping gave way to double-fisting BLP, courtesy of the cast of skinny, long-haired Bud girls bearing bottles. Of course, the big question for Budweiser is whether Platinum, or any of their new products, will prove as popular when they’re not being hyped by a world-famous DJ and flogged by scantily clad servers—when it’s just another option on offer behind the bar.
Bud Light’s family tree
Bud Light: The world’s best-selling beer, raking in over $5.3 billion in 2011.
Bud Light Lime: Launched in 2008, this tart brew was the 15th-top-selling beer in the world in 2011, spurring offshoots like Bud Light Lime Mojito and Bud Light Lime-a-rita.
Bud Light Chelada: This salmon-pink beer—salty, sweet, and spicy—is the result of combining Bud Light with Bloody Mary mix.
Budweiser Black Crown: An attempt to create a more upscale, craft beer–style product, Black Crown boasts a slightly fuller, hoppier flavour than traditional Bud Light.