Michelob Ultra Takes Swing at Tea-Lemonade Line Extension

AB InBev Brand Will Compete with Twisted Tea and Arnold Palmer Hard Half & Half

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Watch out, Arnold Palmer -- you're getting some new competition.

Michelob Ultra will introduce a line extension next year called Ultra 19th Hole Light Tea and Lemonade, according to a memo Anheuser-Busch InBev sent to distributors today. Billed as a "light alcohol beverage" infused with natural lemonade and iced-tea flavors, it will vie with fast-growing offerings such as Boston Beer Co.'s Twisted Tea Hard Iced-Tea Light and Arizona Beverages' recently launched Arnold Palmer Hard Half & Half.

Ultra 19th Hole, scheduled for a national launch in April, has 4% alcohol by volume, 140 calories a can and "offers a great opportunity to capitalize on outdoor drinking occasions, including recreation and golf," according to materials sent to distributors.

Sales of hard teas and lemonade brands were up 54% in 2010, according to the memo. Arizona, which markets Hard though affiliate Hornell Brewing Co., plans to raise distribution to 21 states from five. Twisted Tea had impressive sales growth of 36 %, to $78.4 million, in the year ending Sept. 4, according to SymphonyIRI, which tracks grocery sales, excluding Walmart Stores and liquor stores.

Michelob Ultra, a low-calorie beer long marketed to athletes such as runners and golfers, is also on a solid run, with sales up nearly 6%, to $497 million, according to SymphonyIRI.

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