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    Molson's Low-Carb Beer Discontinued

    The brewer wants to focus attention on its strongest brands including Coors Light.

    Molson Coors Brewing Co. plans to focus on boosting its strongest brands, such as Coors Light. To help do that, the company has stopped making its low-carb offering, Aspen Edge, the Rocky Mountain News reported. The beer will disappear after retailers sell the existing inventory, said spokeswoman Sylvia Morin.

    "The low-carb segment has run its course, and we want to put our energy and effort on the brands that are doing well," Morin said after the company's annual shareholder meeting in Denver last week. The meeting was the company's second since the February 2005 merger that brought together the two family-owned beer makers.

    Other brewers haven't abandoned low-carb efforts yet, but have been repositioning their offerings into the light beer category, Paul Gatza, director of the Boulder-based Brewers Association, told the Rocky Mountain News .

    Sales of Anheuser Busch's low-carb offering, Michelob Ultra, fell about 14 percent in the 12-month period that ended Feb. 19, according to Information Resources Inc. Still, the brewer has expanded its low-carb offerings to include Michelob Ultra Amber.

    Sales of Miller Lite, a long-popular offering that SAB Miller Brewing began marketing as low-carb a few years ago, fell about 2 percent in the same period, the IRI report showed. The report didn't include sales of Aspen Edge, which came to the party late and was offered only in limited markets for a while after its 2004 release.

    "They were pretty late into the low-carb thing, and things are heading in a different direction now," Gatza said. "We see great growth in Blue Moon (another Molson Coors brand), for example, and it makes sense not to have too many brands out there."

    All three major brewers have been fighting flat sales, even as craft brew sales soared 9 percent last year and consumers spent more on wine and spirits.

    In Coors Light's case, the brewer is using packaging innovations to boost sales, including a plastic cooler box, cold-wrap labels for bottles and stay-cold glassware, said Chief Executive Officer Leo Kiely, adding "We're always working on new products to give consumers something new to try."

    That and a marketing campaign launched last fall, which introduced the "Silver Bullet Train," helped boost sales for the brewer's best-selling brand. The train, billed as a mobile marketing vehicle, is featured in Coors Light commercials. It's poised to make its way across the country this summer.

    Marketing efforts helped make Coors Light the No. 1-selling light beer in Canada and the top-selling beer in eight of the brewer's top 10 U.S. markets, Kiely said.

    Largely as a result, Molson Coors saw first-quarter sales jump 10 percent, but reported a $30.2 million loss on higher energy and commodity costs.

    "The bottom line in the first quarter was not what we wanted, but we're making good progress in building our brands," Kiely said.

    During the first year after the merger, he said, the company exceeded its expected merger-related cost savings by 20 percent and is on track to realize the entire $175 million in savings over three years, as promised during the merger. Kiely said another $75 million of merger-related savings is expected to be realized by 2008.

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