The Electric Commentary

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Budweiser aims for an untapped market:

That would be people with bad taste. Check out their new drink (and I'm not making this up, as Dave Barry would say, hat tip, by the way) B to the E. Allow me to fisk:

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Going against the grain in courting the young cocktail crowd, beermaker Anheuser-Busch Cos. is launching a new "brew" to go head-to-head with classic mixed drinks - traditional suds spiked with caffeine, fruit flavoring, herbal guarana and ginseng.

I was just drinking a beer the other day, and I thought, "this could use some ginseng."

The world's largest brewer's nationwide rollout this week of B-to-the-E - the "B" standing for beer, the "E" for something "extra" and shown as an exponent of B - came as beermakers look to piggyback strides liquor companies have made in luring young consumers to flavored and mixed drinks.

All of the beer companies tried this already. Bacardi Silver, Skyy Blue, and the immortal Zima. This ship has sailed.

Anheuser-Busch test marketed B-to-the-E from in the fall, eventually assessing in 55 U.S. cities whether the new "beer" appealed to 20-something consumers craving something zippy in their highly social, fast-paced lifestyles.

As part of my highly social fast paced lifestyle, I prefer dark beer. I wonder if these twenty somethings were giving sarcastic answers and the Bud crew just couldn't tell.

"It's producing a lot of excitement for this beer category in that consumers and bartenders are not looking at this as a typical beer," in many cases with B-to-the-E served over ice, said Dawn Roepke, the St. Louis-based brewer's brand manager of new-product development. "It's going right up against mixed drinks."

I think you meant to say that it's producing a lot of excrement.

She declined to reveal sales data.

Shocking.

Slightly sweet but tart and coming in the aromas of blackberry, raspberry and cherry, B-to-the-E is to be marketed toward "active 21- to 27-year-old experimenters looking for new tastes and options."

In other words, they're targeting women. Just say it.

B-to-the-E comes against the backdrop of the company's existing line of Bacardi liquor-branded flavored malt beverages - or malternatives - and the ever-increasing line of alcohol-free energy drinks, often used as mixers in clubs.

They all flopped.

Anheuser-Busch - maker of Budweiser, Bud Light and low-carb Michelob Ultra beers - trumpets itself as the first major brewer to infuse beer with caffeine, ginseng and guarana, the latter a caffeine-bearing herb used in a popular Brazilian soft drink.

Later tonight, I think I'll become only the second person to combine beer with Skittles.

Anheuser-Busch said each can of B-to-the-E packs 17 grams of carbohydrates, along with 4.5 percent alcohol by volume, 54 milligrams of caffeine and 145 calories. By comparison, Anheuser-Busch's Bacardi Silver Low-Carb Black Cherry has 2.6 grams of carbs and 96 calories per 12-ounce serving.

Not nearly enough carbs for me.

Before taxes, B-to-the-E generally will fetch $1.29 for a single can, $4.99 for a four-pack of 10-ounce cans, Roepke said. A bottled version is to arrive by the end of February, she said.

This is turning into a commercial. Hey, AP? How much do you charge?

Rival Miller Brewing Co. has no immediate plans for a similar product, but "certainly we'll follow the results of the product and be keeping a close eye on it," spokesman Pete Marino said. Colorado-based Adolph Coors Co. did not return calls for comment.

In other words, "I can't believe they're doing this. Tee hee."

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