Category Archives: Alcohol
Coors Light, the second-best-selling beer in the U.S., is having a rough year.
The amount of Coors Light sold in stores in recent months has declined at a faster rate than even its slide of recent years, according to scan data and industry experts. The good news for Chicago-based MillerCoors? At least for now, Bud Light, the top-selling beer in the country made by competitor Anheuser-Busch InBev, is in even steeper decline.
Premium light beer, as it’s called in the industry, peaked in 2007 and 2008. Since then, many American drinkers have turned toward craft beer and Mexican imports; others have drifted into wine and spirits.
Make no mistake: MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch InBev still sell an enormous amount of light beer in the U.S., just not as much as they once did. Combined, the two beer giants — which sell the vast majority of light beer in the U.S. — are down about 26 million barrels in shipments to wholesalers since 2008, according to figures provided by Beer Marketer’s Insights, an industry trade publication.
“They’re getting hit from all over. They’re really taking a lashing,” said Vince Trunzo, co-owner of Affiliated Marketing, a managing company of about 350 liquor stores in the Chicago area, including Armanetti, Miska’s and Cardinal stores.
Trunzo estimated that sales of premium light beer have been down about 4 to 5 percent a year in his stores. Meanwhile, sales of wine, spirits and craft beer have increased. Customers who used to buy a 24-pack of Coors Light are now getting a 12-pack — along with a sixer of craft beer, Trunzo said.
Trunzo said he’s not devoting any less shelf space to MillerCoors products just because the light beer is in decline.
“MillerCoors has been a good partner for many years. We’re not going to kill ’em because they’re going through a little struggle,” Trunzo said.
MillerCoors executives declined to comment during the quiet period leading up to parent company Molson Coors’ Wednesday earnings release.
But in a recent post on the company blog, MillerCoors noted that Coors Light case volume was down 3.4 percent year-to-date through Sept. 30, according to Nielsen data, compared with Bud Light, which was down 5.7 percent over the same period. Chief Marketing Officer David Kroll called it a “challenging year” for Coors Light in the blog post but said he expected next year to be better because of improved marketing and packaging.
To help offset such sales declines, Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors have both acquired craft breweries and introduced new brands in recent years. MillerCoors plans to roll out Two Hats, a fruity light beer aimed at millennials, and Arnold Palmer Spiked Half and Half early next year. MillerCoors also recently struck a 10-year deal to import and market Sol, the company’s first Mexican import beer.
There are obvious success stories in MillerCoors’ vast portfolio: Blue Moon keeps rising despite an overabundance of craft competitors. Leinenkugel had one of its best summers ever. Coors Banquet continues to grow. Hamm’s is going great as the hipster beer of the moment.
Still, it’s unclear at this point how MillerCoors will reach its publicly stated goal of revenue growth by 2019 if its two top-selling beers continue their slow descent.
Together, Miller Lite and Coors Light represent about 57 percent of the company’s business, said Eric Shepard, executive editor of Beer Marketer’s Insights.
“The numbers are the numbers. They’re going to have a very, very difficult time making up that volume,” Shepard said.
The future for light beer doesn’t look much brighter in bars and restaurants than it does in stores. On-premises sales of domestic light beer are projected to decrease another 1.2 percent this year, following five straight years of decline, according to data from Beverage Marketing Corp.
One exception to the domestic light beer fizzle: Michelob Ultra Light, owned by Anheuser-Busch, has been quietly blowing up, growing sales by double-digit percentages.
“To some degree, growth of one is coming at the expense of the other. It’s hard to grow two struggling brands in a shrinking category,” David Henkes, senior principal at Technomic, a Chicago-based market research firm, said of Miller Lite and Coors Light.
At Nisei Lounge, a beloved Wrigleyville dive bar, Miller Lite remains the top-beer, said Nisei Lounge beer buyer Pat Odon.
But what’s selling most on draft reflects how times and tastes have changed.
“Consumers at this specific bar have no interest in macro beers on draft, except Miller High Life,” Odon said. “On draft, people want IPA, IPA, IPA.”
Published: 09 August 2014 05:17 PM
Updated: 09 August 2014 07:06 PM
Within a year of launching, the founders of Carrollton-based Skimpy Mixers took their line of low-calorie cocktail mixers into Wal-Mart and H-E-B stores.
While such a feat is a major accomplishment for any startup, co-founder and CEO Megan Toole-Hall says it’s just the beginning.
“We’ve come so far so fast,” Toole-Hall said. “We can’t relish it but need to keep on going.”
Skimpy Mixers started four years ago when Toole-Hall and business partner Krista LaMothe got hooked on a drink at a pool party: a frozen orange dreamsicle cocktail.
The women tried to find a mix to replicate the drink at home but came up empty. Toole-Hall and LaMothe decided to make their own recipe but discovered that such fruity cocktails were high in sugar and could have as much as 800 calories per drink.
Toole-Hall and LaMothe saw an opportunity to create a low-calorie, low-sugar mixer that would “skimp on the calories, not on the taste,” as the Skimpy Mixer tagline suggests.
Toole-Hall was already running a successful insurance agency, but she couldn’t pass up this new venture. “I didn’t want to have regret,” she said. (Toole-Hall still owns the insurance business, which provides a steady paycheck for her family.)
The two women recruited Summer Lamons, a registered dietitian and Toole-Hall’s oldest friend, and pooled their money to launch Skimpy Mixers.
The brand hit the market at a time when there’s growing interest among consumers, especially women, for low-calorie cocktails and new flavors, says one food industry analyst. Everyone from liquor companies to chain restaurants is trying to capitalize on the demand for low-sugar and low-calorie alcoholic beverages.
“Anytime you’re on trend with new flavors and hitting that other hot button with low calorie, at least in today’s environment, that’s potentially a winning formula,” said David Henkes, vice president at Chicago-based research firm Technomic Inc.
Lamons helped concoct the Skimpy Mixer recipes based on real fruit juice and Splenda as a sweetener. It took countless tests and various formulations in Toole-Hall’s Lewisville kitchen to find the right mix that would not taste like a diet drink.
Skimpy Mixers developed a line of six flavors — orange, berry lemonade, pineapple, sweet n’ sour, Skimpy Margarita and cherry limeade. The latter was developed in partnership with Torrei Hart, the ex-wife of comedian Kevin Hart, who’s starring in VH1’s Atlanta Exes.
A 32-ounce bottle retails for $4.98.
Just as they developed recipes from scratch, the women learned as they went as they navigated the beverage industry.
The process was a mix of trial and error, luck and timing. For instance, Toole-Hall found Skimpy Mixers’ first bottling company through her insurance contacts.
That bottling company, however, fell through quickly. Six months into the contract, the women got a phone call while they were out at lunch. They were told they had 30 minutes to pick up packaging boxes and other materials from the bottling warehouse, which was closing.
They quickly headed there with a U-Haul truck and took what they could. Unable to operate a forklift, the ladies enticed the just-laid-off workers with cash to help them.
“At the beginning, you don’t know if you’re going to make it,” Toole-Hall said.
Marketing and research
What they may have lacked in industry knowledge, the women made up in marketing savvy. Toole-Hall and LaMothe both have marketing degrees and used that to develop the brand’s logo, color scheme and zebra print packaging.
They also scoped out their competitors and quickly found that many brands catered to men.
They used their marketing research when meeting with a Wal-Mart buyer, where the women made their case about offering more choices in the mixer aisle.
The retailer began carrying Skimpy Mixers in about 650 stores in December. In February, Wal-Mart extended distribution to another 715 locations, bringing the total to more than 1,300 stores in 48 states.
Skimpy Mixers are also carried in 120 H-E-B stores in Texas and other regional grocery chains as well as liquor store chains. Instead of bars and restaurants, the company is focusing on retail distribution.
Sales in the first 12 months since its launch in February 2013 hit $2 million. Over the next year, the founders would like to double Skimpy Mixers’ revenue.
Besides expanding its distribution channels nationwide, the company wants to branch out beyond cocktail mixers, which could mean developing other types of mixes such as protein powder.
“It’s about creating a brand,” Toole-Hall said.
Follow Hanah Cho on
Twitter at @hanahcho
Adult beverage suppliers rated as top performing partners by leading chain restaurant and hotel beverage professionals were recognized as Technomic presented the 2014 VIBE Supplier Awards during the VIBE Conference in Las Vegas last week. Continue reading
Despite an overall decline in spirits sales in the US on-trade, high-end whisky is expected to grow, according to a new report.
Technomic’s Adult Beverage Insights Group recently published a report showing that overall alcohol volumes decreased 1.3% in restaurants and bars in the US throughout 2013, compared to a 0.7% decline in the off-trade.
However, Technomic’s research director Eric Schmidt predicts there will be continued growth in whisky as well as craft beer and table wine in the on-trade in this year. Continue reading
We’re bellying-up to the bar less — and bars and restaurants are feeling the pinch more.
Last year, consumers at bars and restaurants cut back on their orders of alcoholic beverages by 1.3%, and that trend continues into 2014, according to a just-released study by Technomic, a food-service industry research firm.
“Consumers pulled back on drink occasions at restaurants and bars,” says David Henkes, vice president at Technomic. Continue reading
It’s no surprise that alcohol consumption and watching pro sports go hand in hand. But that’s especially true for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Two Stanley Cups in four years and a stronghold on the city’s sports consciousness have bolstered the team’s official bar program, which has more than doubled in size to 217 locations since its launch in 2009.
Originally designed to reinforce the Hawks brand with young fans in the city, the network of watering holes now stretches beyond the six-county area to 61 bars downstate. Continue reading