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Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser: The King of...Meat?

Rich Duprey, The Motley Fool

You've likely heard of beer-can chicken, and on St. Patrick's Day you may have even enjoyed corned beef that was marinated and cooked in Guinness beer. But Anheuser-Busch InBev (NYSE: BUD) is trying to go one better by launching a line of Budweiser-infused pork products for the summer.

The brewer has partnered with Coleman Natural Foods to produce smoked ribs, pulled pork, and bratwurst that are made with its beer in an attempt to lure millennial consumers back to the processed meat case. But how combining two products that millennials are separately spurning will benefit either one is a question that hasn't been answered.

New Budweiser line of beer-infused pork products

Image source: Anheuser-Busch InBev.

A move to meatless meat

Anheuser-Busch and Coleman note millennials represent over 80 million consumers and account for some $600 billion in annual spending, a portion of which they want to capture. "The processed meat department has been hungry for new innovations and new customers," Coleman general manager Bart Vittori said in the press release, affirming the two companies' belief that "the Budweiser and Coleman licensing agreement will drive sales in a flat category within this section of the store." That could be a hard sell.

Plant-based foods are a growing trend being driven largely by millennials concerned about animal welfare, environmental impacts, and sourcing issues. It's led protein producer Tyson Foods to invest in Beyond Meat -- a producer of plant-based meat alternatives -- and the expansion of the horrible-sounding lab-grown meat business. According to the market researchers at Mintel, nearly 80% of millennials eat meat alternatives versus just over 50% of nonmillennials.

And it's not any better over at Budweiser. The onetime King of Beers continues to fall out of favor, and is now ranked as the fifth most-popular beer based on dollar sales. Data compiled by IRI Worldwide shows Bud Light, Coors Light, Miller Lite, and Michelob Ultra all sold more beer in the U.S. last year than did Budweiser.

Although they're all made by Anheuser-Busch or Molson Coors, the former biggest beer in America is in serious decline, and many attribute it to millennials, who are drinking whiskey and wine in greater volume. Where craft beer was once the cause, it has also been the victim of a growing preference for hard liquor.

Laying it on thick

Without question, the Budweiser-branded Coleman pork products sound delicious. The five new items include St. Louis-style pork ribs (both full and half racks), pulled pork, jalapeno cheddar brats, and beer brats. The ribs and pulled pork are covered in a Budweiser sauce, while the brats are made with Budweiser lager.

Using an alcohol-based sauce for meat, however, isn't breaking any new ground. Brown-Forman's Jack Daniel's whiskey, for example, has its own brand of barbecue sauce and marinades, and you can often find it on restaurant menus. But Budweiser's sauce may be the first beer-based sauce on a national brand.

Anheuser-Busch has been trying to increase the transparency of the ingredients used in its beers, perhaps as a marketing tool to gain the attention of millennials. Bud Light recently started printing large "nutrition labels" on its packaging, which followed the voluntary guidelines established a few years ago by the industry's Beer Institute to disclose more information about what beer is made of.

And it was Bud Light that infamously tried to troll Coors Light and Miller Lite during the Super Bowl with an ad saying it wasn't made with corn syrup. The implication, of course, what that the additive was bad, playing on the notoriety of high fructose corn syrup even though corn syrup is not the same thing and its purpose is only to feed the yeast during the brewing process.

Missing the mark?

Although the stated purpose of the beer-based pork products is to attract millennials, the line might have better success if it was marketed to those who actually drink Budweiser and eat meat. But the pork products will be in stores by the summer, and they will be available to any age group to try.

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Rich Duprey has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Molson Coors Brewing. The Motley Fool recommends Anheuser-Busch InBev NV. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.