So it makes sense that Bud Light, as an industry leader, would be the first to shout about its new policy of labeling Bud Light boxes with nutrition and ingredient labels as a good thing. The nutritional labels are impossible to miss: bold, black and white, massive. They're the same type of labels you see regularly in other food categories, which makes you wonder, why haven't beer brands been doing this all along? For one, they just don't have to: Alcoholic beverages in the U.S. are regulated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, and the agency has never required them. And more importantly, because beer drinkers haven't traditionally been concerned with how a can measures up to their daily food and drink intake; they just want a beer. But that's changing, and quickly.
Bud Light isn't the first to print nutritional information—Coors Light, Heineken, and others already use labels, but they're smaller or more difficult to find. It is the first to print the ingredients, however, of which there are four. That's nice. We're basically conditioned to believe food products from massive corporations are concocted from manmade chemicals and high fructose corn syrup. Bud Light is just beer: water, barley, rice, and hops. And though Bud Light might not have much in the way of booming flavor, it also doesn't have much in the way of calories: There are just 110 per serving.
"I think that a lot of our consumers are proud to drink the beer. We're real proud of what we put into the beer. So I think, from our perspective, we're pleased to really provide the transparency because we do use four ingredients," Bud Light VP of Marketing Andy Goeler told Esquire.com. "And as I look at that nutritional label, I love looking at that thing and seeing all the zeroes running through."
Bud Light has leaned hard into the new labeling ethos, showing it off on social media and its website. It has to lean hard into something: Big Beer sales are falling across the industry, hitting Bud Light with a 6.2 percent drop from 2016 to 2017, according to one tally. The coming-of-drinking-age generation is less interested in beer and more interested in spirits. While overall beer sales sink, the numbers for craft beers are steadily growing. Another report found that 86 percent of consumers trust food manufacturers more that provide "easy to understand" ingredient information. There's the equation: Make labels transparent, make consumers happy.
"It's really the younger generation—I call it the Millennials—they've come to expect, like I said earlier, transparency, number one. And number two, there's more of a focus for this generation in terms of ingredients. Good ingredients, and putting the right things into their bodies," Goeler said.
Ingredients should be right on the packaging. Starting in February, that’s where you’ll find them. pic.twitter.com/LfI43SDtgX
Bud Light saw the writing on the wall, as has much of the industry. In 2016, Big Beer corporations like Anheuser-Busch (which owns Bud), MillerCoors, and Constellation Brands pledged that by 2020, their brands would provide specific nutritional information and freshness dates on labels, as well as ingredient lists on labels or secondary packaging.
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Bud Light's new labels debut in stores in February, giving Bud Light fans plenty of time to bitch and moan about Millennials and the inherent lame-ness of caring about health while smashing beers, before ultimately deciding to keep drinking Bud Light. Those 110 calories don't look too shabby in that big black lettering. Just wait until Budweiser boxes start broadcasting their 145 calories per can.
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