South African Breweries today launched a new imported low-alcohol beer called St Louis to help bolster its brands, which have been flagging over the past year.

The company is expecting domestic beer sales to remain down by between 5 and 6% for the rest of the financial year, which ends in March.

St Louis, which is produced by SAB's Botswana subsidiary Kalagadi Brewery, is an established brand in that country where it commands more than 30 % of the market.

SAB, which has a 97% share of the market in this country, now has 11 beers and four alcoholic fruit beverages in its stable.

Traditional alcoholic beverages in South Africa are fighting continued volume fals for a variety of factors, including a strong challenge by designer drinks to consumers in the younger sector of the market.

St Louis is a full-bodied, lower alcohol lager with 3.5% alcohol. Its low alcohol content and stylish packaging is aimed at top-end bars, restaurants and outlets with the target market both men and woman over the age of 25.

As part of its marketing drive, a bus shaped like a paddle steamer will be used to promote the beer at various events around the country.