Off-trade bias for 4% Stella

New lower strength brand goes into retailers ahead of major ad campaign

Inbev is to push its lower strength version of Stella Artois in the off-trade, with on-trade outlets taking a back seat, the group has announced.

The 4% abv

lager will hit

shelves in August in a range of formats including four, eight, 10 and 15-packs of 44cl cans.

A four-pack will have a n rrp of £3.49, which is a "10% premium to the rest of the 4% lager category", according to Inbev's UK & Ireland president Stuart MacFarlane.

He added that

a bottled version was expected within 12 months of launch.

The move will spearhead Inbev's plans to re invigorate Stella Artois in the UK.

MacFarlane said that, although it will go into pubs in November, Stella 4% will be "more biased to the off-trade". It will be backed by a "significant above-the-line investment"

from October

to December.

MacFarlane refused to reveal specific figures but said the marketing campaign will cost "significant millions" and

include TV, press, poster and online ads.

This month, Inbev UK ended its long association with the Stella Artois-backed tennis tournament at the Queen's Club.

MacFarlane hinted that the brand will be moving away from link s with sporting events, and will instead pursue sponsorship opportunities in the arts, which he described as a "more appropriate platform for a premium brand".

Inbev has no plans to de-list any of its other brands as a result of the launch, MacFarlane added. "The brands will play different roles", he said, with Beck's Vier targeted at a "younger audience" and Stella 4% targeted at 25 to 44-year-old consumers drinking at more social, food-oriented occasions.

"The consumer awareness of abv or strength is greater than it was 20 years ago. But that's not our starting point. The 4% lager category in the UK is worth £6 billion in retail sales value. The beer industry is in decline - if we are going to make money or add value, we have to do it by premiumisation."