A growth in diet-focused foods and beverages and consumer preference for crisp, refreshing beers contributed to a shift in light beer in the late 70s and 80s that has continued largely unabated. Busch Light’s introduction mirrored this trend and has cemented the beer as a top-selling value brand for maker Anheuser-Busch.
Why Did Busch Light Come Out?
Carb-conscious, calorie-counting beer consumers helped spur the monumental rise in light beers. Busch Light was released in 1989 as Busch Light Draft, a light offering of Busch Beer. The “Draft” suffix did not last. It was dropped just five years later, and the beer is known and marketed as Busch Light.
Today, Busch Light is a top-selling sub-premium light beer offering made by Anheuser Busch InBev. The brand was expected to make just one-quarter of its American lager derivative, Busch Beer, but Busch Light quickly surpassed the original Busch offerings. The success of Busch Light represents a shift in consumer preference towards low-calorie beers, beverages, and food in general.
While diets have been around for centuries, the 1970s and 80s marked an acceleration of diet products in America. In 1977, Slim Fast introduced its first line of diet products. Less than a decade later, Jenny Craig burst onto the scene. At the same time, fitness programs like Jazzercize and celebrity aerobics videos aimed to tame the country’s expanding waistline.
As Americans watched Jane Fonda videos and drank Slim Fast, they looked for other ways to lose weight, like substituting butter for margarine. Beer was a prominent beverage to cut, and many traded in their full-calorie lagers for light beer versions.
Compete With Other Light Beers
The term light beer had been around since 1940 with Coors Light, but in the 1960 and 70s, a method of adding enzymes to beer to reduce the number of carbohydrates in the finished product caught beer drinkers’ attention, mainly with the introduction of Miller Lite in 1973. It wouldn’t be long before Miller’s regional competitors, Coors and Anheuser Busch, introduced their own low-calorie beers.
Coors reintroduced Coors Light in 1978 after placing the beer on hiatus during World War II, Anheuser Busch followed with Bud Light in 1982, and later the Busch Brand would enter the light beer market with Busch Light as a sub-premium offering in 1989.
Introduction Dates of Light Beer Brands
- Miller Lite: 1973
- Coors Light: 1978
- Michelob Light: 1980
- Bud Light: 1982
- Bud Dry: 1984
- Natural Ice: 1988
- Busch Ice: 1995
- Bud Light Lime: 2008
Where Was Busch Light First Brewed?
Like the others in the Anheuser Busch brand, the Busch Brand line-up was first brewed at the Budweiser Brewery in Saint Louis, Missouri. The first beer to be produced under the name was Busch Lager, followed by Busch Bavarian Beer. It was Busch Bavarian, a pale lager, that would continue on to this day as Busch Beer.
Unlike Bud and Bud Light, Busch Beer, Busch Light, and the recently launched Busch Light Apple are brewed with corn. Both the use of rice and corn contributed to each portfolio’s refreshing taste and lighter body. In addition to the corn adjunct, Busch Light is brewed with barley malt and domestic and imported hops.
How Much Was Busch Light When It First Came Out?
In 1989 a six-pack of Busch Light cost $3.49 or fifty-eight cents per can. Today, a 30-pack at my local beer store is $22.99, around seventy-seven cents per 12-ounce can. The beer brand has enjoyed success recently by remaining consistently a bargain brand light lager.
As inflation added pressure to consumer spending in 2022, Busch Light grew along with other sub-premium brands as beer drinkers traded down. While the beer industry has struggled in recent years, bargain brands have benefitted post-pandemic.
Where Was Busch Light First Marketed?
Busch Light was initially test marketed in its home state of Missouri, Illinois, and parts of Texas. At the time, the Busch Brand was the only major brand without a light beer offering.
An article from the LA Times noted that top-selling Miller Lite had stalled growth, and Anheuser Busch saw Busch Light as a worthy competitor.
Today, Busch Light remains a solid alternative to higher-priced premium brands on the market. The beer is crisp with a muted flavor, a light beer to drink at a dive bar or on a hot summer day. The beer remains a top-selling sub-premium light beer in the country and has successfully carved out a niche in the beer industry as a brand for outdoorsmen. When AB garnered criticism for going after their competitors (Coors Light and Miller Lite) for using corn, the Busch brand smoothed things over with farmers with agriculture-themed cans with great success.