Fosters moves into lower abv market with 2% lager

Heineken has launched a new 2% abv Fosters Radler with the aim of dominating a mid-strength lager category it believes could be worth an extra £300 million to the UK drinks market.

The UK’s leading beer supplier calls it the “moderation” category and said it could represent a “£300 million category growth opportunity”.

It said the "moderation" section is worth about 0.5% of the lager market, but could go up to 5%. 

After analysing a portfolio that also includes Heineken and Kronenbourg it decided Fosters was the best placed to move into the category.

The name Radler already exists in parts of Europe. It was first brewed in the 1920s as a thirst quencher for cyclists – Radler means cyclist in German – who stopped for a rest in the mountains.

Radler beers are popular in Croatia, Austria and Hungary.

By marrying the Fosters and the Radler brands, Heineken believes it has created a drink that will sell well among drinkers that are “into body appearance and health”.

At 2% abv, a 300ml bottle works out at just 0.6 units. It is cut with natural lemon juice, leaving a cloudy appearance and a fruity taste.

But brand director Gayle Harrison was keen to stress: “This is not a shandy.

“This is beer with natural lemon juice and it has a sharp taste. This is a drink coming from Fosters, and brand that is relevant and well liked.”

The drink will only be sold in 300ml bottles, and it will go live in early March 2013.

It will be available in four, six, 12 and 15-packs, and it will be sold at a premium price, higher than the normal lager.

“We think it looks premium,” said Harrison. “We decided not to put it in cans. And we think its look means it will sell at a premium price, even though there is less alcohol.

“Consumers have got used to paying higher prices for bottled fruit cider than for other cider.”

The launch will be supported from April with a multi-million pound through-the-line campaign, including print and outdoor advertising, in-store sampling, retail couponing and digital marketing and PR, to drive trial and awareness.

The launch follows the 2.8% abv Carling Zest into the market, but Harrison hopes retailers will not lump these lower alcohol beers together on shelves.

She said: “In the off-trade the key is where it sits on the fixture. It must not sit on the low-alcohol fixture.

“People don’t go there as it has no credibility. Beer that is 2.8% isn’t driven by consumer trends – that’s just where you get a tax break.

“We put a lot of research into coming up with this 2% abv beer and think it will work really well.

“But it needs to sit near regular lager on the shelf, near Fosters and Fosters Gold as that’s where our target market is shopping.”