Miller Coors hopes its new high-end beer targeting spirits drinkers, Miller Fortune, will restore Miller Light's flagging sales as declines continue.
SAB Miller released its Q3 trading update today and reiterated the fact that Miller Coors (its US JV with Molson Coors) is evolving its portfolio towards more premium products such as Redd’s Apple Ale.
SAB’s group net producer revenue (NPR) was up 4% year-on-year in the quarter ending December 31 while total beverage volumes were up 7%; overall performance was in line with management expectations.
In North America Miller Coors’ net producer revenue (NPR) grew 1% year-on year with lower volume sales offset by a positive sales mix and higher pricing.
But sales to US retailers fell 1.9% during the quarter, with premium lights especially suffering – Coors Light sales down low single digit and Miller Lite down mid-single digit.
Brand suffered since recession hit
(Miller Lite is the No.4 beer brand in the US, but the latest full-year data from IRI sees the brand struggling, with sales down 2.5% to $1.9bn in the 52 weeks ending August 11 2013.)
Miller Coors’ premium regular brand sales also fell low single digit with a double-digit decline for Miller Genuine draft offsetting mid-single digit growth for Coors Banquet, while even craft division Tenth and Blake suffered due to lower volume sales for for Henry Weinhard’s.
Putting a brave face on things, SAB said the rest of the Miller Coors’ premium portfolio grew strongly due to innovation, highlighting the notable success of the Redd’s franchise.
And after AB InBev went after US spirits drinkers from 2011 with Bud Light Platinum, Miller Coors will target the same cohort by launching its own higher alcohol (6.9% alcohol ABV) golden lager Miller Fortune in early 2014, which is rumored to be stronger and darker than Platinum.
Presented in an all-black, embossed bottle to appeal to spirits drinkers, and Miller Coors CEO Tom Long said on November 6 Q3 results call that the brand would be backed with a major advertising push in 2014.
Miller Fortune in a ‘rocks’ glass
“It will be launched in a way that’s different from any beer launch you’ve seen. Just as Miller Banquet helps Coors Light, so Miller Fortune’s positioning will help Miller Light,” Long said.
Andy England, Miller Coors EVP and chief marketing officer, told analysts: “Everything we do on Miller Fortune is very much aimed at spirits occasions, and it’s very much positioned to go up against spirits.
“That means it needs to be priced higher, and you can certainly expect us to be priced higher than premium, and that’s obviously going to vary on a market-by-market basis.”
England said Miller Coors would advertise Miller Fortune “in a way that’s very sophisticated for a beer” targeting the spirits occasion at grassroots by serving Miller Fortune in a rocks glass.
“As simple an idea as that may seem…that sends more messages about going after spirits than anything else you can imagine, and is entirely appropriate for the brand,” he said.
“We believe Fortune has a terrific opportunity…it’s done extremely well in blind taste testing versus its obvious competitors,” he said.