Heavy Metal

New duds for the Buds--the aluminum bottle proves to be a hit with beer-guzzlers.

When you think of Budweiser, lots of adjectives probably come to mind, but "sleek," "stylish," and "futuristic" likely aren't among them. Dan McHugh, vice president of trademark brands at Anheuser-Busch, is looking to change that with a new 16-ounce aluminum bottle that's putting an upscale spin on the middlebrow brewer.

The bottle is made of heavier-gauge aluminum than a standard beer can, so it keeps the suds colder longer. But McHugh, who oversaw the bottle's introduction, explains that the real advantage is more psychological than functional. "We're always looking to raise the image bar, and this kind of package gets us in the door at upscale clubs where you wouldn't normally see much beer," he explains. "In some resort markets, it even lets us make a pitch for the wine or spirits customer."

The metal bottle debuted a year ago, but only with Michelob products. "We wanted to make sure the consumer would accept it," says McHugh. The new design proved to be so popular that McHugh made the push to expand it to additional brands. "We're making and filling them as fast as we can," he says.

It's worth keeping a healthy sense of perspective about that. The aluminum bottles currently soak up 300,000 barrels, barely a drop in Anheuser-Busch's 100 million–barrel ocean. Still, says McHugh, "It's very tactical in terms of where we're taking it and what we're trying to do with it."

So will the metal bottle challenge the can or glass bottle for market supremacy? "That would be pretty far down the road," he says. "But its presence will definitely grow." As long as cold beer remains popular, we imagine so.

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