Nov 3, 2011

The Changing Face of the Beer Industry

So, Miller Brewing Company (MillerCoors) is in trouble. Ok, maybe they aren’t in trouble per say, they are however, experiencing a decline in sales. Miller Lite, in the 3rd quarter of this year, saw sales drop “somewhere in the mid single digits” according to CEO Tom Long. Revenue dropped a more series 14.1%. “"It's been our toughest quarter as a company," Long stated. He later promised to take aggressive steps to turn sales around. So, you’re the CEO of a Beer Company, and you just went through the toughest quarter in your company’s history, so what do you do? Well, what MillerCoors plans on doing is, well, redesigning the can! Coming out with the “taste flow” can., whatever the hell that is. The new can will make its debut next summer. This can promise to increase air flow into the can, and reduce “glug”, which, I guess is a major concern to beer drinkers? Plan B, they are redesigning their labels, in hopes to draw attention to some other brands of theirs, mainly “Miller 64”, their ass kicking 64 calorie beer. At 2.8% ABV, its makes Bud Light look like a full flavored, powerful stout! All these improvements to help that wonderful “triple hops brewed” taste. Maybe they should “frost brew” their beer, and make it change colors so you can tell when the beer is cold enough to mask the horrible flavor.

What I think MillerCoors fails to realize, is the beer industry is changing, much like a lot of American industries. People are no longer happy with the boring, or mundane. Miller blames the recession, and in part, I think that plays a part. I think people are looking for more value for the hard earn dollar, and spending that money on a beer that is light, less flavorful and just not very exciting is no longer an option for people. They want something with a bolder, heavier flavor that they can sip and enjoy and savor, rather than chug and belch. This is not just my opinion however. According to statics from the Brewers Association, beer sales in America have been declining by about 1% every year for the last 5 years or so, while sales of craft beer are up 15% in the last year alone. Sales of import beers is down 10% since 2009 as well. People are looking for value for their dollar now. They are going for less of a better beer, as opposed for more of a lesser beer. This is evident by the fact that total craft beer consists of just 4.5% of beer sales by volume in America, but accounts for almost 10% of the dollars spent.

Vortex Bottle
Vortex "flow"!
I think Americans are just either getting tired of or catching on to stupid catchy slogans and marketing gimmicks. The bottle equivalent of the taste flow can, is Miller’s space age “Vortex bottle” with special groves designed to deliver your beer to your mouth more efficiently and quicker? After some independent study, the very qualified Beer Czar staff determined that there is NO noticeable difference in the amount of time it takes to pour out the contents of a Vortex bottle versus a normal, boring old plan bottle without its own commercial. This Vortex bottle to me is just plain stupid, and should insult the intelligence of anyone that has ever or will ever enjoy a Miller Lite. Why doesn’t MillerCoors spend more time improving the contents of their packaging, rather than the package itself? I am under no allusion that everyone in America is going to stop drinking light American Lagers, and suddenly switch to craft beer, but it certainly seems obvious that many people are doing just that. MillerCoors should be spending more time developing a more flavorful line up, not a lineup of unexciting beer, in what they think is exciting packaging. These big beer companies have their place here in America, and they most likely always will. They sell more than 90% of the beer in the States, so obviously a lot of people like their products. However, craft beer has grown every year for more than a decade, and show no signs of stopping anytime soon.

I have to admit, I do think this ad for the Vortex bottle is pretty good.

Brew Kettle at New Holland Brewery
Another great stat I want to throw out, the craft beer industry accounts for an estimated 100,000 jobs in America, (including Brewpub staffs). It takes far more people to brew a glass of craft beer then in does a can of Bud. So keep American working, drink local. The largest American owned brewing company in the States now is Boston Beer Company, makers of Samuel Adams. Budweiser is now owned by InBev, a Belgian Beer conglomerate. A friend recently told me Bud is still technically American beer, because it is made here. Well, I would argue Toyotas are made here in the States, and I don’t hear anyone calling them American made.

So, why not give your local brew pub a try, or grab a six pack of a locally or regionally brewed beer. You may just find something you love! The only problem, they don’t come in a fancy taste flow can, or the scientifically enhanced Vortex bottle, but if you can look past these imperfections, there is a lot of tasty, exciting beer to be had out there, and it might just come from right up the road!

Bottoms up my friends.

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