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    Light Beer Drinkers Consume More Than Regular Beer Drinkers

    Low-carb popularity causing consumers to review their drinking habits.

    CHICAGO -- According to Mintel International Group's new report, light beer drinkers drank on average 5.7 beers in the past month, while regular domestic beer drinkers enjoyed 5.0 beers in the same period.

    Light and low-carb beers are becoming increasingly popular. They accounted for 45 percent of the domestic beer market in 2003, with sales of Bud Light, Miller Lite, and Coors Light making up 70 percent of the light beer category. The popularity of low-carb diets, such as the Atkins and South Beach diets, have caused consumers to review their drinking habits. Currently, nearly 30 percent of Americans drink light/low-carb beer in comparison to 27 percent who drink regular beer. This is a key example of how important watching calories or carbs is to beer drinkers. Women are even more diet-sensitive, drinking 47 percent less light beer than men and 68 percent less regular domestic beer. Hispanics consume 12 percent more light beer than average, and drink exactly at the average rate for regular beer. In addition, Hispanics are the most brand-loyal of all groups.

    Nearly half of all Americans are beer drinkers, which encompasses over a third of women and 60 percent of men. Younger consumers are more adventurous in terms of trying new brands. Older consumers have stronger opinions about what they like, making them more inclined to stay with specific brands. Over 40 percent of beer drinkers age 18-34 have tried a new type of beer in the past three months, compared to only 25 percent of those age 55 and older. Among those who drink beer and who have tried a new type in the last three months, 78 percent did so due to word of mouth. The power of suggestion, whether by a friend or at a bar, appeals to impulsive and curious consumers.

    The $40 billion U.S. domestic beer market is estimated to grow 14 percent to reach nearly $45 billion by 2008. The previous six years' growth can be attributed to light/low calorie beers and malt liquor beverages. Accordingly, regular beers have faced challenges with the rise in popularity of low-carb diets, particularly since 2000. Mintel expects that light/low calorie beer sales will exceed those of regular beer by 2005.

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