Millennials' tastes brought about the downfall of one of America's most iconic beer brands -- and now it's banking on women to survive

Bud LightBud Light Lime and Bud Light Orange.
  • Bud Light debuted a new beer on Monday: Bud Light Orange.
  • The beer giant hopes to win over women with fruity, flavored beers, according to executives.
  • Bud Light sales fell 5.7% by volume in 2017 – the brand’s biggest drop in history.
  • Female drinkers are increasingly crucial to beer sales as beer falls out of fashion in favour of wine and spirits.

Bud Light is doubling down on flavored beer while seeking to win over female drinkers.

On Monday, Anheuser-Busch InBev announced the national debut of Bud Light Orange, a citrusy lager made with orange peels. The company also announced the return of a “refreshed” Bud Light Lime for the summer.

“Our millennial consumers are eager to try new, flavored options in the light lager category. We wanted to create something new to engage with these consumers and bring them into the Bud Light family,” Andy Goeler, Bud Light’s vice president of marketing, said in a statement.

“Flavored beer has seen steady growth with consumers continually looking for higher quality beverages made with real, natural flavours,” the statement continued.

Bud light logoAnheuser-BuschBud Light’s bro-centric advertising of the ’90s won’t fly in 2018.

Bud Light could use the sales boost. In 2017, the brand suffered its biggest annual volume decline ever, dropping 5.7%, according to Beer Marketer’s Insights.

While younger drinkers have gravitated toward flavored beers (and away from beer in general, in favour of wine and spirits), the company additionally hopes to win over another group with Bud Light Orange: women.

Women, as a whole, drink less than men, and they tend to prefer wine and spirits over beer when they do drink. Historically, major beer companies have ignored this problem and advertised primarily to men.

But with women catching up with men in terms of their share of the alcohol market, and men expanding their alcohol preferences beyond beer, beer giants are growing concerned.

Beer penetration fell 1 percentage point in the US market from 2016 to 2017, while both wine and spirits were unmoved, according to Nielsen data. Beer lost 10% of market share to wine and hard liquor from 2006 to 2016.

As some of the biggest names in beer struggle, AB InBev is trying to win over women with lighter lagers (such as Corona) and flavored beers.

“Flavored beer provides an option for mixed gender occasions, as well as entering new occasions that have historically been owned by other alcohol beverage categories,” AB InBev CEO Carlos Brito said in a call with investors in March.

Bud Light Orange isn’t AB InBev’s first attempt at growing its sales among female drinkers. Last year, the company relaunched Lime-A-Ritas – previously a Bud Light spin-off – as the company’s first brand marketed exclusively to women.

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