Among Anheuser-Busch’s top brands, to paraphrase a recent Bloomberg report, Budweiser may be “the King of Beers,” but Michelob Ultra is the crown jewel.
Michelob Ultra is a relative newcomer to Anheuser-Busch’s suite of light lagers. Launched in 2002, it now accounts for 10 percent of Anheuser-Busch’s U.S. business. The fast and furious success of this “superior light beer” can be attributed to its strongest trait: marketing to athletic, calorie-counting conservatives.
Pumped to learn more? Here are 11 more things you should know about Michelob Ultra.
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Michelob Ultra is an anomaly.
Anheuser-Busch (A-B) introduced Michelob Ultra in 2002, and it’s sold like marketing magic ever since. As A-B market share declines, Michelob Ultra market share grows.
According to market research firm IRI, dollar sales of Mich Ultra siblings Budweiser and Bud Light both declined during the first four months of 2019 (4.4 percent and 4.8 percent, respectively). Michelob Ultra dollar sales increased 15.5 percent in the same period. By July 2019, “the brand [closed] in on $1 billion in sales,” Brewbound reports.
Michelob Ultra is a top-tier beer.
When Anheuser-Busch announced its first-quarter results to industry members in 2019, it brought another win to light: Michelob Ultra became the third-largest beer brand in the U.S. That put it behind No. 1 and No. 2, Bud Light and Coors Light; leap-frogging over Budweiser and Miller Lite, which were previously No. 3. and No. 4, respectively.
Michelob Ultra is a family of four.
Currently, there are four Michelob Ultra recipes in the brand family: The original Michelob Ultra “Superior Light Beer” launched in 2002. In 2018, innovations started ramping up.
In February 2018, A-B launched Michelob Ultra Pure Gold, an organic version of the light lager billed as the first USDA-certified organic beer from a national brewer.
A little over a year later, the brand launched Michelob Ultra Infusions, a new version of the beer flavored with “exotic fruit.” The first label, Lime & Prickly Pear Cactus, launched in March 2019; and Pomegranate & Agave is expected to be next.
Finally, in 2019, it also launched Michelob Ultra Amber Max, a gluten-reduced version of the beer made “with three ancient grains with notes of blue agave and rye,” in select markets, according to Fortune. Michelob Ultra Amber Max is “crafted to remove gluten,” according to the company.
Michelob Ultra is the Gatorade of beer.
In a 2019 interview with Bloomberg TV, AB InBev chief executive officer Carlos Brito said of Michelob Ultra: “If you work out and go out, no need to compromise, because it’s a great-tasting beer with less carbs, less calories, less alcohol for you to be able to have that active lifestyle.” For more than a decade, Michelob Ultra has been marketed as a sports drink, with ads featuring the likes of Lance Armstrong in 2010, and three-time Olympic gold medalist beach volleyball star Kerri Walsh Jennings in 2019.
Speaking to Fortune, Spiros Malandrakis, head of alcoholic drinks at research firm Euromonitor International, said Michelob Ultra capitalized on the rising trend of health and wellness more than any other premium lager. “Running, marathons, and a healthy lifestyle — that wasn’t typically focused on beer,” Malandrakis said.
Michelob Ultra was originally made for seniors? OK Boomer.
So, the message is clear: This light lager is for youthful, active types and marathon runners, right? Not so fast. It turns out the young, sporty audience Michelob Ultra enjoys today was an accident. According to AdAge, Michelob Ultra launched with a different target in mind: baby boomers. The brand and its tagline — “Lose the carbs. Not the taste.” — was meant to resonate with Atkins-dieting seniors.
Michelob Ultra is fad-diet-friendly.
Although Atkins may be out of style, Michelob Ultra drinkers are still celebrating its low-carb count. The latest dieters’ accolade? It’s keto-friendly. “Michelob Ultra is making dreams come true for keto dieters,” Women’s Health reported in March 2019. It referred to Michelob Ultra Infusions, a new line of fruit-flavored light lager. Women’s Health’s Marissa Gainsburg also referred to Michelob Ultra as a “beloved keto-friendly, low-calorie light beer.”
This is because “the keto diet requires consuming fewer than 50 net carbs per day (and ideally no more than 20) in order to encourage the body to burn fat for energy, in a state called ketosis (hence the name),” Gainsburg wrote. While that typically means beer is a no-no — and fruit, too — Michelob Ultra Infusions “is truly giving keto dieters the best of both worlds,” she wrote.
It’s the calories and carbs that count.
Michelob Ultra keeps its stats low. The 4.2-percent-ABV beer has just 95 calories per 12-ounce serving. That’s less than the calorie count in almost every competitor, including Bud Light (110 calories), Coors Light (102 calories), and Miller Lite (96 calories). Michelob Ultra has the same amount of calories as Natural Light and Busch Light, but beats the other two in the carb department — Michelob Ultra has 2.6 grams of carbohydrates per serving, while Natural Light and Busch Light have 3.2 grams each.
Meanwhile, Michelob Ultra Organic dips even lower, to 85 calories per 12-ounce serving.
Republicans love Michelob Ultra.
A 2019 study on alcohol preferences among American voters revealed that Republicans’ beer of choice is Michelob Ultra, followed by other light beers such as Miller Lite, Coors Light, and Bud Light.
Many people take Michelob Ultra personally.
Many consumer publications, blogs, and websites have felt the need to define Michelob Ultra as something other than what it is: a light lager made with malted barley, rice, hops, water, and yeast.
In a Fox News article titled, “What a Man’s Choice in Beer Reveals About His Personality,” Michelob Ultra is defined as “The Guy Drinking Low-Cal Beer: Besides his ultra-strict diet … there’s nothing really ultra about this guy. He might be young and beautiful, but he’s a bit conceited. He has a strong, confident opinion, but can also be confrontational and controlling. Perhaps he’s into you, but he’s probably more into himself.”
A similar article in AdAge, “What Your Taste in Beer Says About You,” based on an actual study, says: “Michelob Ultra drinkers rate high in superiority; that is, they think highly of themselves and can be a little bit conceited. They care what other people think about them and want to appear perfect. They also tend to be take-charge types with strong opinions, and can even be confrontational. Michelob Ultra drinkers are 43 percent more likely than the average person to consider sustainability a priority, and 34 percent more likely to buy life insurance.”
Michelob Ultra ads are fun, and made fun of.
Michelob Ultra ran two Super Bowl ads for the first time ever in 2018. Both starred Chris Pratt, the first a “meta,” tongue-in-cheek ad following Pratt as he “trains” for his big role as the Mich Ultra spokesperson; and a second, “real” ad featuring Pratt, along with golfer Brooks Koepka and surfer Kelly Slater.
Perhaps a more memorable Super Bowl ad was the spoof commercial for Michelob Sport, a “healthy” light beer targeting outdoorsy bros who want to be better hikers.
You can drink Mich Ultra and wear it, too.
Michelob Ultra is a longtime supporter of running events. It’s the official beer of the Turkey Trotters. At the 2020 New York City Marathon, Michelob Ultra will debut Michelob Ultra-branded shoes from Newton Running. Not a fan of racing or fancy sneakers? You can also enjoy Michelob Ultra workout playlists on Spotify.