Carlton & United Breweries has announced it will reduce the ABV on three of its lower alcohol beers.
Cascade Premium Light will drop from 2.6% to 2.4% while Carlton Mid and VB Gold will be reduced to 3% from 3.5%.
A company spokesman said the changes were due to consumer demand for lower alcohol beers.
“We have heard from consumers that for many low and mid-strength beer drinkers the alcohol content is less important than the flavour of the beer and its value. Our brewers are now able to reduce the alcohol by volume of these beers without compromising flavour, while continuing to offer consumers good value for money,” the spokesman said.
“Consumer trends have been shifting towards accessing products with lower alcohol by volume, which are provided by the low and mid-strength beer range.”
The timing of the move is potentially fraught for the ABInBev-owned brewer. The announcement comes in the week that the UK division of Molson Coors was accused of misleading customers by labelling its Carling brand as being 4% ABV, while claiming excise at it being brewed at 3.7%.
The brewer has also suffered consumer backlash in the past for reducing the ABV of its flagship brand, Victoria Bitter, from 4.9% to 4.6% ABV, resulting in then-CEO Ari Mervis having to issue a public apology under the heading, “We heard you…we’re fixing it.”
The brewer had previously assured customers that despite the changes in strength, the beer wouldn’t change any different. Consumers felt otherwise and the changes tarnished the brand.
The current changes to the midstrength range would seem to be in a different category. As opposed to full-strength products, midstrength beers are sold on lower alcohol being the functional benefit of the beers, while VB was always marketed on the tagline, “The big cold beer”. CUB has been proactive in announcing the news, which avoids potential criticism for introducing the changes by stealth.