The US-based bastard stepchild of SABMiller and MolsonCoors, MillerCoors, has announced plans to streamline its portfolio by discontinuing some of its “economy” brand line-up. (Read: Ditching some of the cheap beers.) This led me to wonder just what they might be jettisoning, so over to the MillerCoors website I surfed.
The company says that the move will allow them to focus on core economy brands like Keystone Light and Milwaukee’s Best Light, and will also expand the Hamm’s brands, so it’s a cinch those are sticking around. So scrolling through the “Our Brands” section, I come to the following:
Ice beers: Remember the ice beers of the 1990s? I do, but I was being paid to pay attention to such things back then. Well, anyway, apparently MillerCoors still has four — count ’em, four! — of the things in their portfolio: Icehouse, Milwaukee’s Best Ice, Mickey’s Ice and Keystone Ice. I’m thinking at least two are set for the high jump. (As an aside, I always loved the terminology behind these beers, which suggests they are “brewed below freezing,” never mind the physical impossibility of such a feat.)
Red Dog: Holy crap, MillerCoors still makes Red Dog. Not for much longer, I’m guessing.
Mickey’s: Hard to believe that the venerable Mickey’s Wide-Mouth — forever etched in my memory as the skunkiest beer I have ever encountered — could be discontinued. But then again, MillerCoors has given it one of the most minimalist websites you’re ever likely to find from a big company, so maybe they’ve tired of the whole thing.
Magnum Malt Liquor: When you have Olde English 800, do you really need Magnum? Perhaps not…
Steel Reserve: I admit that I haven’t the faintest idea what this family of three brands is all about, except that apparently it’s been around in various forms since 1998. Maybe or maybe not.
So those are my guesses. Any alternate theories out there?
10 Replies to “Oh No! A Future with Fewer Cheap MillerCoors Beers!”
SABMiller and Molson Coors do some decent stuff. I love me a Pilsner Urquell or Worthington’s White Shield. The crap end of the market has its place, I suppose, though I’d prefer if all cheap beers were good.
Miller will never discontinue Mickeys or Steel Reserve. Do you have any idea how much of those beers they sell??
I don’t, Peter, but where the big guys are concerned, everything is relative.
Wow, a major brewery is scaling back. My only theory is that craft-brewing is making a big enough dent that they feel the need to scale back. Somehow my heart will go on…
eh, they go through cycles…as do most businesses
“Economy” brands attract almost no new customers, as they have little to no advertising and only utilize point-of-purchase displays. Here is Wisconsin, Minhas and Pabst also have about a half dozen economy brands apiece…no need to waste all the floor space on low margin brands…MillerCoors needs to make room for Batch 19 and Third Shift which they are promoting but getting lost among all the alternatives.
They discontinue brands to let them move resources and focus to an answer to the craft brewers. It’s very simple. If you weren’t aware, they have an incubation brewery, called AC Golden, that produces amazing barrel aged stuff. Right now it’s running on a 30bbl brewhouse, so you don’t see it anywhere. But, given time and money, it could be much larger.
To be fair, I did a month on discount beers on the blog in February and you very quickly come to two realizations: 1) That segment of the market isn’t rational and 2) Brand loyalty is a pain in the ass for large brewers.
My thinking goes like this: Every time a large brewer launches a new product there is an initial surge of interest which inexplicably attracts people to that product. I know from tasting objectively that there isn’t a whole lot of difference in flavour in that market segment. Many of the beers are brewed from the same wort streams. The real problem is that if you introduce something like Red Dog and you get Tommy Lee Jones to voice the eponymous canine, you’re going to get a lot of people interested. Some are fickle and will bugger off but there are others who will remain loyal to the brand. What ends up happening is a discount beer ghetto where you’ve got just enough drinker to justify continuing production of something in the long term. Eventually there are so many of those brands that it becomes untenable to continue all of them and you have to choose between allocating your resources to better properties and alienating a small number of aging customers or streamlining and focusing on a larger potential group of customers.
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