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Natural Light evokes nostalgia with its new can design


New York
CNN

The new Natural Light cans will soon look like the old ones.

Drinkers will soon notice a retro-inspired makeover that echoes the budget beer brand’s 1979 design, with logo, crest and colours. It’s part of a wider campaign to mature the beer’s identity, which is synonymous with college drinkers.

“There’s been a lot of talk about how ‘what’s old is what’s cool now,’ so we wanted to look back into our archives, so the can itself harkens back to a late 1970s design,” said Christine Stowe, head of marketing for natural light.

When the retro design was tested a few years ago in North Carolina and South Carolina, the response was “completely off the charts,” Stowe told CNN exclusively. The beer had “the best sales rate we’ve seen in years,” compared to the current silver, red and blue branding, which has been in use for more than a decade.

On the left is the current design and on the right is the retro design that is hitting the shelves again in February.

After an “incredibly successful” run, it was a “natural next step to take this look nationally,” she said. Markets will see a permanent redesign of its cans, bottles and cardboard packaging in early February.

Turning to nostalgia is an ongoing trend in food, drink, and even technology.

Created in 1977, Natural Light is experiencing its own mild mid-life crisis. Sales of budget beer are at their peak from 2020, when consumers stocked up at the beginning of the pandemic. Now consumers are increasingly buying premium brands or Mexican lagers.

This leaves cheaper brands in a difficult position.

“While inflation is likely to affect consumer behavior across alcohol categories, drinkers are more likely to cut alcohol consumption altogether than downgrade to a lower-end brand or cheaper category,” Olson said.

Budget beer sales in the U.S. will fall roughly 8% in 2022, after falling 5% in 2021, according to IVSR Beverage Market Analysis. Natural light sales are “steady,” Stowe said, but noted “we definitely have room to grow.”

For Natural Light to do that, the Anheuser-Busch ( BUD ) -owned brand is “widening its hatch,” Stove said. “Traditionally, people think of us as a college beer – and we graduate.

“What we realized is that our beer isn’t just being consumed by legal drinkers, it’s all the way up to 30-40-year-olds,” Stowe said. “We’re not giving up on college, but we’re now taking in a whole new cohort that’s always been around but hasn’t been given the attention or time they deserve.”

According to Olson, Natural Light’s pivot to older drinkers is a result of alcohol brands targeting younger drinkers who crave the tasty creations found in ready-made cocktails or low-calorie beers like Michelob Ultra.

“Natural Light’s decision could be an effort to go the other way and reach a less competitive audience of older adults,” she said.

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