- Bud Light debuted their new prominent nutrition labels during the NFL playoff games last weekend, which features the total number or calories (110) and carb count (6.6 grams) in each 12-ounce beer, according to Bloomberg.
- This label upgrade will feature calories and carbs in bold text on each can and is a play for transparency to highlight the fact that the beer is brewed with only four ingredients. Although alcoholic drinks are not required to list calories, saturated fat, sugar or carbohydrates on products, Bud Light has done so for years, but just in small type on the packaging that the bottles and cans come in.
- “We want to be transparent,” said Andy Goeler, vice president of marketing for Bud Light. “It’s something they (consumers) become used to seeing in other categories.”
The world of beer is changing. In recent years, consumer tastes have been shifting away from traditional brews, which has hit Molson Coors and AB InBev hard. The two companies, which together control about 90% of beer production in the U.S. today, saw dramatic declines in sales in 2017, according to market research firm IRI. Bud Light, lost nearly 1% point in market share in the third quarter of 2017. That seems like a small decline, but to put the shift from such a megabrand in perspective, a 12% increase in the company's Blue Moon brand would be needed to offset the decline.
It’s no surprise that the company is working to find different methods to attract consumers back into the fold. Bud Light’s choice to add bold nutrition facts to its cans is in line with the clean label movement that has permeated almost every segment of the grocery store with labels giving consumers a look into what, exactly, is in each product. It is also a choice with which AB InBev has seen success.
Michelob Ultra is another brand of the AB InBev beer family. It has defied expectations, with sales jumping more than 80% from 2014 to 2017. Its success stems from its appeal to a health-conscious demographic, highlighting its 95 calories and 2.6 grams of carbs. By replicating this approach, the brewer hopes Bud Light can tap into a market that is concerned with not only calorie and carb consumption, but also the number of ingredients they ingest. Bud Light is made with only water, barley, rice and hops.
By having such a big brand jump in and start labeling nutrition facts on its cans, it might put pressure on other beer producers to do the same, something that may not be as helpful for regular beers which have far more carbs and calories.
All this begs the question: Why is alcohol exempt? To give the summary version, it’s because thanks to the legacy of prohibition, alcoholic beverages are not controlled by the FDA, but instead the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which does not require the same labeling as other food and drink items. While there have been calls to change the way alcoholic beverages are regulated, nothing has yet come of them.
However, if Big Beer voluntarily gets on board, that may change. Major beer makers agreed in 2016 to voluntarily disclose nutrition facts on their products by 2020, according to the Associated Press. Now that Bud Light has made the move, it may also inspire other smaller companies to start labeling.
Consumers will likely be divided on whether they want to know how many calories and carbs they are consuming. However, with such pressure in the industry to clean up labels, it is likely that Bud Light will be the first of many to transition to a more transparent labeling system.