Diageo, the maker of Smirnoff, has announced a string of US national cable ads with a simple message - zero carbs. As the fight for the Atkins dollar gets fiercer, spirit and beer marketers alike have begun to position their products as low-carb and diet-friendly.

With an estimated 32 million carb-conscious Americans spending $2.5 billion a year on low-carb foods, alcohol promoters are being prompted to incorporate the now mainstream diet into their marketing campaigns. Requests by the National Consumers League for more information on spirits labels, including calories and ingredients, also indicates the increasing nutrition consciousness of consumers.

Diageo is jumping on the Atkins bandwagon - a string of national cable ads, starting just in time for the holiday season, position Smirnoff as a no-carb alternative. The ads, prompted by a consumer survey that found 63% incorrectly thought spirits like vodka and whisky had more carbs than beer or wine, show Smirnoff being poured into a shot glass while words on the screen proclaim "zero carbs". Smirnoff has also launched a website, lowcarbparties.com and hired Ted Allen, wine and food expert from the hit show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, to promote the low-carb content of
spirits.

Spirit makers are also targeting bartenders to offer 'skinny' versions of holiday-themed drinks. Allied Domecq, which makes Kahlua, is encouraging bartenders to offer White Russians made with skim milk instead of regular milk. To create buzz, the drink is being debuted at Hollywood parties and some hip hair salons.

Beer marketers do not want to be left behind either. As the market becomes inundated with low-carb beers, marketing campaigns are emerging as key determinants of success. In an effort to identify itself with an active and healthy lifestyle, Michelob Ultra will become the official beer of the PGA and LPGA golf tours next year.
 
As the fight for a slice of the low-carb pie continues, maybe Atkins-endorsements like the Atkins approved Friday's menu will become a major weapon in a marketing battle that is likely to last for years.