Available in on and off-premise channels in 330ml bottles (sold both single and in three packs, the latter for £4.99) from March 24, Cubanisto is a 5.9% ABV citrus, orange zest and lime-flavored beer made with Caribbean rum that has cane sugar and treacle aromas. AB InBev spokesman Sara Ashby told BeverageDaily.com that the brand will also be launched in France.
Citing Nielsen data for the 12 months to October 12 2013, ABI said flavored beer was worth £88m ($147.3m) in off-premise channels and £27m in off-premise.
Rum is also in growth in the year to July 2013, with volume up 29%, and the ‘spirit beer’ category in off-premise doubled in value and grew 78% on-premise.
'Waiting to be discovered by men and women'
AB InBev UK’s senior brand manager Emily Kraftman said: “Cubanisto is a brand waiting to be discovered by tech-savvy trend setters, and enjoyed when socialising and celebrating with friends.
“AB InBev has a track record of launching successful innovations, with Stella Artois Cidre in the UK being a great example,” she added.
Asked if Cubanisto was taking on spirits in the same way as Miller Fortune in the State, Ashby told this site: "Flavored beer is worth £115m in the UK and is growing across on and off trade channels, reflecting consumer demand for new and different flavors.
"We therefore believe there is a good opportunity to launch a flavored beer that appeals to men and women and fits music/dance night-time occasions."
So might such a product ever be sold on draft or in cans, or is the appeal more niche and super-premium, meaning that ABI will stick to bottles? "At the moment in the UK Cubanisto is only available in bottles, there are no plans to launch in can or on draft," Ashby said.
Following in the footsteps of Heineken's Desperados...
She added that AB InBev had "nothing to annouce at this time" regarding plans to launch more flavored beers in the UK in 2014.
Summer 2013 saw success in the UK retail landscape for strawberry, raspberry, apricot and cherry flavored beers, which weren't necessarily new, but won supermarket listings for the first time.
Chris Wisson, Mintel senior drinks analyst told BeverageDaily.com today: "This launch actually makes sense and ABI aren't the first in this area. Heineken have had Desperados for almost 20 years now (apart from a short period in the UK when SHS Drinks managed it). But its only been the last five years that the category has started to really gain momentum.
"Desperados has just launched a new Mojito extension too and this is clearly a segment of the beer market in growth. And as you say, it is a good way for beer to strike back against competing segments such as spirits. Brewers are also doing so against cider with some new flavored beers such as Budvar's starting to emerge," Wisson added.
Tesco take on flavored beer - it's hot!
Execution is key for 'speers' (spirit-flavored beers), Wisson stressed, and he said that many brands wisely targeted up-tempo occasions such as nights out, music gigs or festivals.
"I think we can expect this segment of the market to continue growing, provided the execution and choice of flavors remains credible," he said.
"According to our December beer report, 18% of adults had drunk these in the six months to September 2013, a fairly considerable proportion and strongly geared towards under-35s."
Chiara Nesbitt, a specialist beer buyer at Tesco, was quoted late last year saying that the retailer found that flavored beers appealed to ‘foodie customers’ who are more likely to cook from scratch and buy premium brands or products.
“The market is still in its relative infancy but it’s being noticed by brewers, who are launching more products onto the market each year,” she said.