- The Brewers Collective, Anheuser Busch's craft business unit, has launched a flavored malt beverage product line called LQD, according to a release. LQD includes hard limeades, lemonades and teas for "health-minded consumers unwilling to compromise on taste or quality," the company said.
- The new products from Oregon-based LQD are made from a few easily pronounceable ingredients and real fruit, which are all naturally fermented. The initial offerings include Hard Agave Limeade, Hard Passion Fruit Green Tea and Hard Hibiscus Green Tea. Hard Hibiscus Lemonade will arrive this summer, according to the release.
- All of the new LQD beverages contain 5.2% to 5.9% ABV and less than 200 calories. They are available in six-packs of individual flavors and 12-packs of variety teas in sustainable packaging.
As the first big move beyond beer from Anheuser Busch's Brewers Collective, the LQD launch underscores the continued appeal of innovative alcoholic beverages for today's drinkers. Malt beverages have hit a chord with consumers — particularly millennials — so it makes sense for the world's largest brewer to get on board with the popular trend.
Mike's Hard Lemonade, owned by Mark Anthony Brands, started paving the way for malt beverages back in 1999. By 2018, the company said Mike's growth was approaching 20%. White Claw, the hard seltzer brand also owned by Mark Anthony Brands, represents the resurgence of malt beverages. It launched in 2016 with five fruit flavors not usually seen in the sector, and, since then, hard seltzers have taken off. Some analysts expect hard seltzer sales to leap 270% this year.
Big brewers have been developing their own versions of hard seltzer in an attempt to replicate that success. AB InBev introduced its own Natural Light Seltzer last summer to pull in college-aged fans of its Natural Light beers. That lineup comes in peach-mango and black cherry-lime flavors and contains an ABV of 6%. At the time, the brewing giant said there was a gap in the market and this new seltzer would disrupt the segment.
AB InBev followed that up in February with its Bud Light Seltzer, which, according to CNN, became one of the top-selling hard seltzers in the U.S. within weeks of launching — surpassed only by White Claw and Boston Beer's Truly brand in the No. 1 and 2 spots, respectively.
CNN reported that AB InBev now owns three of the top five seltzer brands since Natural Light Seltzer sits in fourth place and its original spiked seltzer, Bon & Viv, is in fifth. This has undoubtedly been a positive development for the company as it tries to diversify away from its core beer brands that have seen sales drop in recent years.
Beer volume fell 2.3% last year for its fourth straight year of declines, according to data from IWSR. But while domestic brands declined 3.6% in 2019, craft beer consumption rose 4.1%, imported brews increased 3.1% and low- and no-alcohol products saw the largest jump at 6.6%. AB InBev has also taken note of the latter's growth and is introducing four no- and low-alcohol craft beers to its portfolio this spring.
For the Brewers Collective — a group of 13 craft partners, including Platform Beer Co., Goose Island Beer, Devils Backbone, Wicked Weed Brewing and Karbach Brewing — a focus on craft malt beverages could be the ticket to increased sales and a higher profile for the craft business unit within Anheuser Busch, the U.S. division of the world's largest brewer.
This LQD launch may also bring added attention to the craft malt sector, a growing category where New Belgium, Devils Backbone, Oskar Blues and a few others have made forays, but not all have gone the distance. Still, using just a few ingredients and focusing on quality might spell success for the Brewers Collective and Anheuser Busch, especially with a huge parent company behind the new brand.