Inbev is gearing up for a “top secret” launch of a lower-strength Stella lager in a last-ditch attempt to shed the lager-lout image of Stella Artois and revive its falling sales. The new 4% ABV (alcohol-by-volume) drink is expected to be introduced in the UK later this year.
The brewer has been desperate to move away from the moniker of “wife beater” that Stella Artois has been stuck with for years. It has already relaunched the brand as part of the Artois family, featuring the 4% ABV Peetermans Artois along with the bottled premium Artois Bock, a 6.2% version (MW March 9, 2006).
It also scrapped the famous “Reassuringly expensive” strapline, launched in 1982 to position Stella as a premium brand, last year. Lowe, the brand’s retained advertising agency, created a new campaign to advertise the family of Artois beers with the strapline: “Pass On Something Good.”
Insiders say that, if successful, the 4% variant will become the flagship brand with the 5.2% lager becoming a super-strength extension. The move comes as Inbev announced its $46bn (£23bn) bid for American-owned rival Anheuser-Busch last week.
A spokesman for Inbev UK says: “Stella Artois is a pioneering brand constantly looking at innovation and striving to provide consumers with choice. We are always looking at exciting launches but no decision has been made yet. Watch this space.”
According to AC Nielsen, sales of the Stella brand – which also include Peetermans and Artois Bock – fell by almost 1% to 491 million pints in supermarkets and off-licences over the year to the end of March 2008.