The 11-month-old Tequiza has proven very successful for A-B. Its extension could be rolled out by spring. It will have a less sweet and fuller tequila flavor, said Bob Lachky, VP-brand management at Anheuser-Busch.
Tequiza is Anheuser-Busch's stab against No. 1 import Corona -- even though the two beers taste nothing alike -- and other higher-price brews, said Benj Steinman, associate publisher of Beer Marketer's Insights. Tequiza is its highest-price product, selling at more than $6 a six-pack.
"Corona is just a principal manifestation of a trend [to higher prices] that A-B has not participated in," he said. "This is not the only effort A-B will make. They're just more determined to compete in the higher-price segment of the business."
One West Coast distributor said the new beer, which A-B had toyed with naming "Tequiza Gold," would not have the lime flavor that makes the original beer sweeter than many male drinkers prefer.
Tequiza (the name is a combination of the Spanish word for beer -- cerveza -- and tequila) also plays off the booming popularity of tequila. Tequila sales have grown 7% since the mid-1990s, compared with just a 1% gain overall for the alcoholic beverage industry.
Anheuser-Busch, the world's largest brewer, would not comment on the product other than to confirm the name and say Tequiza Extra is in development.
However, the brewer has said that Tequiza exceeded its own projections, especially against imports and microbrews. Information Resources Inc. ranked Tequiza as one of the four best-selling high-end supermarket beers in 1999.
Seymour Leikind, an alcohol beverage analyst with Leikind Consulting, said Tequiza also provides a welcome importlike product for Anheuser-Busch wholesalers, who may not have distribution rights for products such as Corona.
Mr. Steinman said that while Tequiza soundly outsold Bud Light in that brew's first year -- 570,000 barrels to Bud Light's 185,000 barrels -- that trend likely will not hold. One factor is Tequiza's small sales slide at the end of last year, but another is that Bud Light had racked up a phenomenal tally of almost 4 million barrels in sales by the end of its second year.
The West Coast distributor speculated the drop-off may have been seasonal. "Maybe when it's hot, people drink more," he said. "People have an initial trial, and then it drops a bit. That's why they're coming out with Tequiza Extra now. That's a vital line extension item to keep the brand growing, and fresh and new."