You can't help thinking Pure Blonde is aimed primarily at female beer drinkers. The give-away to me is the combination of the words "health and lifestyle conscious" and "low-carb diet" in the product hype.
Whether women drinkers are the target or not, it's hardly surprising that our major brewers run for cover when such a suggestion is made. The last Australian beer brand pitched directly at female drinkers - Swan Gold in the late 1980s - was a spectacular marketing flop. The short-lived Bond Breweries empire repackaged an existing mid-strength brand and women ignored it in droves.
When women choose to drink beer it appears they want to do it on an equal footing with males. "Flavour is often not the issue with women," says Lion Nathan's chief brewer, Bill Taylor, and telling them to drink a particular type of beer is clearly a mistake.
Pure Blonde is the latest attempt by Carlton & United Beverages to crack a perceived market niche for a full-strength beer that promises somehow to keep you slimmer. Time will tell whether there is a viable market gap for such a specialised brew.
"The product has already exceeded our expectations several times over," says CUB beverage ambassador Dermot O'Donnell, claiming the brewer has been "caught short" by demand since Pure Blonde was launched. He calls it a "refreshment product" aimed at "young, unisex, health-conscious people who want to look good".
In the United States, O'Donnell says, "the low-carb market has exploded". In particular, Budweiser's Bud Ultra has garnered impressive market share. He says Australia's "one million diabetics" may benefit from the lower sugars levels in the likes of Pure Blonde.
In Belgium, paler beers are often referred to as "blonde", for example Leffe Blonde. Locally, the name now covers a wide range of styles: Belgian white beer (Grand Ridge), wheat-based ale (the St Peters and Bondi), wheat-based lager (Cascade), low-carb lager (Pure) and "continental pale ale" (3 Ravens).
Low-carb beers are hardly new in Australia. We have seen the likes of CUB Diamond Draft, Carlton LJ (low-joule), Hahn Long Brew and Toohey's Maxim. "They've never really taken off," Taylor says. Maxim has been "moderately successful" since it was launched a few years ago, aimed at people who "like to have a beer but are watching their weight".
"You see a lot of women drinking strong beers in Belgian beer cafes," he says. Taste is not the issue - "it's about the whole beer experience" - but calories and carbs still can influence their choice of drink. "Women are often very surprised to learn that beer is no more fattening than wine."
Foster's nutrition. (Pure Blonde is 39th on the alphabetical list. Alc% - 4.6, Carb (g) / 100g - 0.9, kj/100ml - 126,Cal/100ml - 30.)