Sunday, December 16, 2007
Miller Lite Targets Craft Beer Segment
Miller Brewing Co. has seen the light and decided it is time for an expansion of its Miller Lite brand franchise into the craft segment.
Miller will test market three new craft-style brews under the Miller Lite Brewers Collection umbrella in Minneapolis, Charlotte, San Diego and Baltimore starting in February. The offering will include a blonde ale, amber beer and wheat beer. The brewery is talking in terms of creating a new "craft-style light" category, but the reality is that a number of regional and craft brewers have launched light beers in the past. The most widely available and successful of these products is Samuel Adams Light. Imports such as Amstel and Corona Light also carve out a healthy part of premium priced beer sales.
Since I am based in one of the test markets, I'm sure I will run across the Miller Lite Brewers Collection. It may require me to break my self imposed prohibition against light beers in the interests of journalistic research.
Miller Lite is by far SABMiller's largest brand in the U.S. The brand is the cornerstone that helped establish light beer as mainstream. The category now accounts for about one out of every three beers sold in the U.S. SABMiller is looking to combine this strength with the growing popularity of craft beers. Certainly, the company did not want to sit on the sidelines while brands like Anheuser-Busch's seasonals and regionals and Blue Moon took slices of the craft pie.
It will be interesting to see if the Miller Lite drinker is all that interested in craft beers, or if craft drinkers are longing for a light beer entry from the makers of Miller Lite. Perhaps the folks at SABMiller believe there is another group of drinkers out there with an unfulfilled beverage need.