Molson Inc. last week became the latest brewer to unveil a low-carbohydrate beer. “We’re just responding to evolving consumer needs,” said Rob Assimakopoulos, Molson’s vice-president of marketing innovation. “We think this could be a significant sub-category [of beer].” In an effort to differentiate its lower-carb offering, Molson said Ultra has a regular beer taste and 4.5% alcohol-by-volume — slightly higher than rivals’ products — with 2.5 grams of carbohydrates and fewer than 100 calories per bottle. That level of carbohydrates is about the same as eating a tablespoon of peanut butter or drinking a glass of wine. By comparison, regular beers have between 11 and 17 grams of carbohydrates, equivalent to 10 french fries or a slice of french toast.
But consumers are sensitive to taste, especially in Canada where beer drinkers buy six times more regular suds than light beers, compared to the US where light beers account for about 50% of the market. Last year, Michelob led the low-carb beer charge while in Canada, Sleeman Breweries Ltd. launched its Clear brand this summer. Earlier this month, Labatt Brewing Co. joined the pack with Sterling, a beer containing 4% alcohol and 2.5 grams of carbohydrates per bottle.
An initial shipment of the product almost sold out, despite the absence of an advertising blitz by the company. While Molson Ultra is being marketed to all beer drinkers, they must have at least one common trait, according to Mr. Assimakopoulos. “Obviously, the people who are going to try it want the [low-carb] benefit,”