Michelob Ultra Infusions could be next line extension from Anheuser-Busch

Anheuser-Busch appears to be feeding one of its fastest-growing brands with another line extension.

The brewer last week gained federal approval for labels of Michelob Ultra Infusions Lime & Prickly Pear Cactus, which it describes as a “light lager with real exotic fruit and natural flavors.”

According to its label, the beer has 95 calories, the same as flagship Michelob Ultra, but it checks in at 4 percent alcohol-by-volume, 0.2 percentage points lower than O.G. Ultra. It has 5 grams of carbohydrates, compared to 2.6 grams in the flagship.

If and when it is released, Lime & Prickly Pear Cactus will join a brand franchise that includes three other beers: Michelob Ultra Light, Michelob Ultra Lime Cactus and Michelob Ultra Pure Gold. Together, the franchise is a shining star in the Anheuser-Busch portfolio, up collectively $270 million, or 20.5 percent, in the off-premise year-to-date through Oct. 9, according to IRI.

Mich Ultra alone is up 16.4 percent in the off-premise, good enough to pass Budweiser as the No. 4 brand in the U.S. in sales dollars year-to-date, per IRI multi-outlet and convenience data cited by Beer Marketer's Insights (subscription required).

Michelob Ultra has been a mainstay atop the Nielsen Top 10 Growth Brands list, while Michelob Ultra Pure Gold edged its way onto the most recent list, which counts data through Nov. 3.

It’s unclear if the beer will be part of a larger line of Michelob Ultra Infusions or whether it’s simply a small test. Spokespeople for the company did not return a message seeking comment.

The label, which thus far is for 12-ounce bottles, comes as AB executives are publicly reevaluating how they invest behind their U.S. portfolio.

Anheuser-Busch Chief Executive Michel Doukeris said last week that the world’s largest brewer has looked “too much” to Budweiser and Bud Light and is increasing investments behind brands such as Michelob Ultra to fuel growth. Days earlier, his boss, Anheuser-Busch InBev CEO Carlos Brito told investors the company is taking a “fresh look” at its U.S. strategy and putting “more gas” on shifting its portfolio toward higher-end beers.