AB InBev's Anheuser-Busch is debuting its first zero-carb beer, Bud Light Next. The light beer has 80 calories and 4% alcohol by volume per 12-ounce can, with a "super crisp," "clean and refreshing taste," according to a press release. In comparison, Bud Light has 6.6 grams of carbs and 110 calories per 12-ounce can, with a 4.2% ABV.
The beer giant said Bud Light Next is the result of a "brewing breakthrough" and nearly 10 years of R&D, which have created a traditional lager that "offers the sessionability and stats of a seltzer." The brew is launching nationwide on Feb. 7 ahead of Super Bowl LVI with a new nonfungible token (NFT) project and accompanying in-game commercial.
Anheuser-Busch is using the increasingly popular "zero" metric for beverages in targeting younger adult drinkers, who have helped drive sales for hard seltzers and low- and no-alcoholic beers in their pursuit of a healthier lifestyle.
Anheuser-Busch first announced plans to introduce a zero-carb beer this past September. In an interview with CNN Business, Bud Light Vice President of Marketing Andy Goeler said that the brew targets a younger generation of health-conscious adult drinkers, including Gen Z, who want an alcoholic beverage with the flavor of beer but the nutritional stats of hard seltzer. Bud Light Next would be the first no-carb beer from a major manufacturer.
The company had developed around 130 prototypes in a program unofficially called "Project Impossible" before choosing the winning recipe, Goeler told the news service. At a recent tour of the Georgia facility where Bud Light Next is being brewed, a plant manager declined to tell CNN Business more about the "brewing breakthrough" but said the beer is made through a "highly technical process," with water as "one of the most important raw materials." She described its taste "as a mix between elderberry and chamomile, with a fruity aroma," the publication reported.
The secrecy is understandable. Anheuser Busch has been coming at the problem of winning over millennial and adult Gen Z drinkers from multiple angles as many of its legacy beer brands' volumes slipped as consumers have shifted toward lighter refreshments. On the seltzer side, this includes introducing Bud Light Seltzer in 2020 to join its Bon & Viv and Natural Light Seltzer brands. More recently, innovations like Bud Light Seltzer Hard Soda have been added to the brand family. In beer, Anheuser Busch has offered up both no-alcohol beer and low-alcohol craft beer. A product that aims to be a hybrid between both categories seems a worthy target.
With Bud Light Next, Anheuser Busch may also be taking inspiration from the success of AB InBev-owned Michelob Ultra, which is its second-largest brand by volume and retail sales. In its most recent earnings report, AB InBev noted that Michelob Ultra had outperformed the industry in its fiscal third-quarter.
Of course, Michelob Ultra — originally conceived as a light premium beer for baby boomers — has a more mature consumer audience. With 2.6 carbs and 95 calories per 12-ounce serving, it also doesn't meet the "zero" metric that so many beverages are embracing as they chase Gen Z.
"Today's consumers have got options of low calorie and low carb products, this is another entry to have something that goes all the way to zero carbs," Goeler told CNN Business in September. "It's a big consumer trend we see across many consumer industries."