Low-Carb Beer Goes National

Anheuser-Busch Inc., St. Louis, has made its own entry into the more-healthful arena, launching a new variety of beer that is low in carbohydrates.

Following months of regional testing, Michelob Ultra has gone nationwide, and the lager promises only 95 calories, 4.2% alcohol by volume and 2.6g of carbohydrates per 12-oz. serving. Regular 12-oz. bottles of beer typically have 150 calories and 5g of carbs.

The lower-carb beer is brewed using pale two-row and Munich six-row barley, select grains, all-imported hops and a pure, cultured yeast strain. Anheuser-Busch says the special choice of grains, combined with the extended mash process, produces the beer with fewer carbohydrates. Ultra is available in six-packs and 12-packs with the “sloped shoulder” bottle, six-packs of cans, and on draft.

Off Target

The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at Georgetown University, Washington, is a new public health group established to monitor and analyze the alcohol industry's marketing and its impact on youth. Its latest analysis of alcohol advertising in national magazines in 2001 found that 12- to 20-year-olds saw 45% more beer ads, 27% more distilled spirits ads and 60% more “malternative” ads than adults over 21. The study also argues the alcohol industry advertised in magazines with high youth readership, spending nearly a third of its magazine advertising dollars in 10 magazines with at least 25% youth readership. A spokesperson says it has “asked (the FTC) for a new and rigorous review of the companies' practices.”

Getting the Fat Out

The move toward healthier items continues, as Frito-Lay, Plano, Texas, has announced major steps to improve the healthiness of its snack items. Reduced fat versions of Lay's potato chips and Cheetos are just one step of the process, set to debut in December and early 2003, respectively. The snack giant also will eliminate trans-fats from its Doritos, Tostitos and Cheetos products.

Beginning in early 2003, Frito-Lay will move from hydrogenated oils to corn oil, a transfat-free oil, in the production of those items. The company says its Lay's and Ruffles potato chips have been prepared in trans-fat-free oil for years.

Among the new reduced fat offerings, the Lay's chips will have their total fat reduced by 25%, with saturated fat reduced by 60%. The reduced fat Cheetos will have 50% less fat, plus a 70% reduction in saturated fat.

Also included in Frito-Lay's more-healthful effort is a push to make “better for you” products. Such items include baked versions of Doritos and Lay's, plus a Baked Lay's variety with flecks of broccoli.