Buyers fear Inbev's decision to introduce a 4% abv spin-off will confuse drinkers and could cannibalise sales of the 5.2% abv parent brand.
One senior buyer said: "I can see why they're doing it, but I don't necessarily think it's a great idea. Why take a premium brand down?
"They're going to spend a huge amount of money on it so I'm sure they'll make it work, but in terms of innovation it's pretty poor if that's the best they can do."
He described the strategy as a bid to shake Stella Artois' "wife beater" tag, but questioned how consumers would react. "It is not something they're proud of and they probably think this makes them look more responsible. Whether the consumer will see it that way, only time will tell."
With Peeterman Artois and Beck's Vier, the newcomer means Inbev will have three beers in the 4% abv bracket, which has also attracted criticism from buyers. It will almost certainly sound the
death knell for Castlemaine XXXX, which OLN revealed last month was already on the rocks.
Another industry insider added: "It's a brave move, but probably inevitable. It's certainly not a reassuring time to launch a new brand.
"They'll be hoping to repeat the relative success of Beck's Vier, which they introduced because of Beck's market position. But that position was established by S&N when they brewed it - Inbev has just ridden on the back of it."