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Victoria Bitter to launch Low Carb Variant

FOSTER’S is considering launching a low-carbohydrate version of Victoria Bitter to revive the fortunes of Australia’s best-selling beer.

The industry has seen meteoric growth in demand for beers with lower carbohydrates as men become more health conscious.

Sales of low-carb beers have grown from nothing to $468 million in less than five years and brewers are eyeing the US example where “light” beers, as they are called, account for one in every two beers drunk.

Competitor Lion Nathan launched a low-carb version of its bestselling mainstream beer late last year, Tooheys New White Stag, to take market share from Pure Blonde, which has nearly 60 per cent of the market.

Lion believes there is resistance among core male drinkers to switch from mainstream beer — a product invariably marketed around masculinity and mateship — to a lower-carb product like Pure Blonde, which they might regard as less than masculine.

Foster’s is intent on capturing more share of the mainstream beer market from brands such as Toohey’s New, West End Bitter and inevitably VB’s stablemate Carlton Draught.

But it also wants to increase the “value” of the VB trademark, which it admits is difficult when Coles and Woolworths discount the brand to increase store traffic, making it harder for independent stores, which account for two-thirds of VB sales.

Foster’s head of beer, Peter Sinclair, said: “There is clearly an innovation agenda to the VB brand.” When asked if a low-carb VB was on the cards, Mr Sinclair answered: “Your words not mine.” The company declined to go into any further details.

A low-carb VB could eat into sales of Pure Blonde, although Mr Sinclair said when the company launched Pure Blonde, it was not afraid to attack itself “through the expansion of other brands in our portfolio”.

Mr Sinclair said that two years ago the company decided to push VB to the fore. It then launched a mid-strength version, VB Gold, widely regarded as a failure as it captured only 0.8 per cent of beer sales.

After years in freefall, VB sales have flattened out at 43 per cent of the traditional beer market in the past year. Mr Sinclair said “the turnaround” for the $1 billion brand had begun.

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Sunday, January 21, 12:57 am

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