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Miller brews up light craft beers for masses

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MILWAUKEE Miller Brewing Co. announced late last week that it would test market the Miller Lite Brewers Collection in Minneapolis, Charlotte, N.C., San Diego, and Baltimore beginning in February.

The three new versions of Miller Lite will be a blonde ale, an amber beer and a wheat beer—each with fewer calories and carbohydrates than a typical beer for that style. The three new beers will target mainstream drinkers and capitalize on trends that favor light beer, greater variety of beer styles and a willingness to pay more for higher-quality beers. They also could help establish a new beer industry category, something Miller chief marketing officer Randy Ransom calls “craft-style light.”

Light beer makes up roughly one-third of U.S. beer sales volume and is the dominant category in the beer industry, but craft beers, such as Samuel Adams Boston Lager, are taking a growing share of sales. That niche accounted for only about 3 percent of sales in 2006 but saw an 11.7 percent sales volume increase over 2005, compared with industry-wide growth of 2 percent.

The three beers will initially be available in six-pack bottles and priced between mainstream light beers and typical craft beers, the company said.

Miller Lite is Miller’s largest brand, accounting for 47 percent of the company’s sales volume in 2006.

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