The introduction of light beer by Miller in the 1970's transformed the beer industry. Long known as a filling, heavy drink for manly men, Miller Lite reduced the alcohol content and thus the calories and (using lots of manly athletes as celebrity endorsers to deliver the "Tastes Great, Less Filling" TV message) made it OK for men to think about both calories and beer at the same time. The product and its advertisements were a national sensation.
But light beer's heyday has been over for a long time now, and as a subcategory of beer, it is falling faster than any other. Bud and Miller are desperate. And so light beer is taking a page from the craft beer playbook and at the same time, it does appear that craft beer brands are offering more lower alcohol/lower calorie lager and pilsner options. Am I the only one who has noticed this?
And so light beer drinkers are getting a bit of an upgrade with the big macro breweries rolling out a more sophisticated, higher-priced, lower calorie beer for the masses. While Michelob Ultra, a product that appears to be targeted towards more physically active beer drinkers, has been increasing revenue and market share, Bud and Miller have languished on the sidelines. Clearly consumers somehow consider Ultra to be superior in some way, and perhaps its higher quality and more variety that these light beer drinkers are really seeking.
Something has to give in the light beer category, and that is for sure. At the same time, the craft beer category, which is now flat, has far too many brands offering far too many inconsistent brews for far too much money. Something has to give in this far smaller sector as well. Perhaps these two subcategories, light and craft, can find some common ground. Perhaps it's time for craft marketers to come up with a new term. How does "Light Craft" sound? And marketers like Bud, Miller and Michelob that make far more than 6 million barrels per year will need a name for their category as well. Any ideas?
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