A-B Offers Beer for Wheat- and Gluten-Free Lifestyles

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A-B Offers Beer for Wheat- and Gluten-Free Lifestyles

ST. LOUIS -- Anheuser-Busch (A-B) is making a Sorghum beer available nationwide for consumers that suffer from wheat allergies or those that have chosen a wheat- or gluten-free diet, and the company says it is the first brewer to do so. The beer, called Redbridge, will be sold in stores that carry organic products.

Sorghum -- the primary ingredient in Redbridge -- is a grain that is grown in the United States, Africa, Southern Europe, Central America and Southern Asia, and is safe for those allergic to wheat or gluten. The full-bodied lager uses imported Hallertau and domestic Cascade hops.

"We set out to create a fine, hand-crafted specialty beer made without wheat or barley," said Angie Minges, product manager for A-B. "We've made Redbridge nationally available to make sure adults who experience wheat allergies or who choose a gluten-free or wheat-free diet can enjoy the kind of beer that fits their lifestyle."

"Brewing a beer made with sorghum was an exciting process," added Kristin Zantop, an A-B brewmaster. "We use only the highest quality ingredients to brew Redbridge, as is the case with all our beers. Sorghum is the primary ingredient. We then use the lager brewing process using imported Hallertau and domestic Cascade hops without adding wheat or barley to give Redbridge its rich, hearty taste."

The beer, which is brewed at A-B's Merrimack, N.H. brewery, contains 4.8 percent alcohol by volume and is available in 12-ounce, 6-pack bottles.

To make Redbridge, A-B said it worked with the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) to understand the needs of consumers that are allergic to wheat or gluten or have chosen such a diet. The company also will make yearly donations to the MFCA and sponsor its events, such as cooking sprees.

In other A-B news, the company's board approved a more aggressive leverage target to enhance shareholder value, as well as a new multi-year 100 million share repurchase program. To increase value, A-B will moderately increase leverage and reduce its cash flow to total debt ratio from the 30-to-40 percent range to the 25-to-30 percent range.

By having a more aggressive leverage, A-B will increase efficiency when using its balance sheet to support existing operations, acquisitions, dividend growth and share repurchasing, while continuing to maintain substantial financial flexibility, president and CEO August A. Busch IV said in a written statement.

"Our first priority is to invest in our businesses to enhance profit growth. This includes capital expenditures in existing operations, and acquisitions and investments to enhance our long-term earnings growth. The second priority is to return cash to shareholders by consistently increasing dividends in line with expected growth in earnings per share, and share repurchasing, consistent with the new leverage target."

He continued: "Investing for growth which enhances competitive advantage and increases economic value added is our primary focus. We are sharply focused on increasing shareholder value through profit growth and capital efficiency. In 2006, capital spending was reduced by over $300 million to about $825 million. This was done without compromising productivity improvement, which reduced annual costs by about $100 million in 2006."