Light beer: Lower-calorie fare taking from other domestics

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Americans increasingly are making theirs a light.

Six of last year's top 10 beers were reduced-calorie brews, and the light-beer category reached a record 87 million barrels in 2000, up 5% over 1999, according to Beer Marketer's Insights. This, in a market that grew only 0.8% overall in barrels.

If it hasn't already occurred, sometime this year the king of beers, Budweiser, is sure to fall to the No. 2 spot behind slimmer sibling Bud Light.

Though well-suited for baby boomers concerned about waistlines, lower-calorie brews are drawing their popularity from the key beer drinking public, 21- to 27-year-old men, says Eric Shepard, editor of BMI. He suggests the drinkers may be less taken with the calories than the fact that Lites and lights are less filling.

The light beer category-which had a 37% market share in 1996 but boasted 43% of the market in 2000-is pulling share from regular premium domestic beers and lower-priced domestics.

Regular premium domestics have dropped from a 26% share of market in 1996 to 22% last year, and lower-priced domestics have fallen from 15% to 11% in the same period, according to BMI. Imports grew from 6% to 10% during that time.

Light beers last year received $369.9 million in measured media, up 9.8% from 1999, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR. The leading full-calorie beers received $231.1 million in ad support during that time, up 13%.

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