Anheuser-Busch launching Michelob Ultra Infusions in two flavors

Here comes another line extension from Michelob Ultra.

Anheuser-Busch has gained federal approval for labels of Michelob Ultra Infusions Pomegranate & Agave, which will join Michelob Ultra Infusions Lime & Prickly Pear Cactus, labels for which passed through the Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau in November.

The brewer describes Michelob Ultra Infusions Pomegranate & Agave as a “light lager with real fruit and natural flavor.”

Both flavors are packaged in 12-ounce bottles, per TTB filings through March 5. Neither has launched.

The line extension is the latest in a series of bolt-ons for Anheuser-Busch, which has not been shy about line extending off its best-selling brands. Its efforts include branching off flagships Budweiser and Bud Light, in part to help prop up sales and generate more consumer interest around those flagging brands.

But over the past couple of years, AB has begun looking at Michelob Ultra, hoping to capitalize on that growing brand.

The Infusions line will join a fast-growing brand franchise that includes Michelob Ultra Light, Michelob Ultra Lime Cactus and Michelob Ultra Pure Gold. It is among the top-performing brand families in the beer industry.

Sales dollars of the largest brand, Michelob Ultra, are up 18.1 percent year-to-date on a 17 percent rise in volume through Feb. 23, according to Nielsen all-outlet and convenience data. The brand, which now has a 5 share of the entire beer market, has ranked as Nielsen’s top growth brand for more than a year and a half. Its organic spinoff, Michelob Ultra Pure Gold, also has been on the list for several months.

According to their labels, the beers in the Infusions line each have 95 calories, the same as flagship Michelob Ultra. But they each check in at 4 percent alcohol-by-volume, versus 4.2 percent for regular Michelob Ultra. Each also has 5 grams of carbohydrates, compared to 2.6 grams in the flagship.

It’s unknown if the line will get a national rollout or whether it’s simply a small test. A company spokeswoman declined to provide additional details.

Anheuser-Busch InBev CEO Carlos Brito has said the company is focused on shifting its portfolio toward higher-priced beers, such as the Mich Ultra franchise.

In a meeting with analysts last week, Brito said AB is testing “lots of things” in different regions in the U.S., per a note to clients from Robert Ottenstein, an analyst with Evercore ISI. “Many will fail, some will be regional, some will be scaled.”

Ottenstein noted that AB’s process of launching new brands “is very different from when they put $40 (million) to $50 million behind Bud Light Lime to go national in 2008-2009.”

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