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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.


JessKidden said...

"The category now accounts for about one out of every three beers sold in the U.S."

Actually, going by the stats in Beverage World's State of the Industry pdf file http://www.beverageworld.com/special_reports/State-Industry-2007.pdf
it's even worse than that. The top 10 Light beers they list account for 48% of the market (with 9 of the top 15 brands being lights), so it's actually closer to "one out of every two beers".

While many in the craft beer community are somewhat surprised by these new beers, I gotta think "What took 'em so long?". While on one hand it seems contradictory ("light craft"?), it might appeal to a portion of the segment of craft beer buyers which overlaps with top import buyers (i.e. people who buy based on "status" rather than taste), given how well the Heineken Light and Corona Light have done among imports.

Don said...

I've been tasting some light craft beers, and honestly it just doesn't work for me. I've tried things like Honey Light (but there's not HINT of Honey).

I'm the kind of guy that likes some assault on my taste buds. If I want to quench my thirst, I'll grab a durn Gatorade.

Just like the Michelob, I too will holla at these new mainstream craft beers next time I'm in Charlotte. But I'm skeptical that they are just trying to hinder newer beer tasters from getting into the real stuff.

Anonymous said...

Miller really has'nt been "sitting on the sideline" concerning craft beers. They've been brewing craft beers with their Leinenkugel Brewery.

Whalebone said...

Good for you Miller! It's about time. Now more beers for us to choose from. Busch has been doing it for years. I hope that even add an IPA, a Stout, a Porter, and even a Red. Whoo hoo.....let's go get some!!

Doc said...

Hey Rick,

I am IN one of the commercials Miller Lite shot for this new series of beers and was wondering if you happened to see it in Charlotte. It's the spot with the magician 'Loudini' trying the new wheat beer. Shot the commercial in early Feb and was wondering if you saw it in the test market city of Charlotte.