In the early 1970s, when Miller Lite hit the market and started to gain drinkers, Coors, and subsequently AB, jumped on board with their own versions of light beers. Both breweries’ first editions of light failed. Coors Light redesigned their can color, changing it from a buff to silver; while AB changed their name from Budweiser Light to Bud Light. The rest is history.
At the time, Miller Lite was on fire, so both AB and Coors stayed the course. The light segment was viable but other breweries including Schlitz, Pabst, and regionals joined the trend with their respective versions of light beer. These beers, however, did not stick. When Corona caught fire and the industry realized that Corona was not a one-night stand, AB and Coors introduced Mexican-named beers in an effort to be competitive, both of which had little, if any success.
Think about all the unique beers that have been tired over the decades, dry beers, ice beers, LA beers, even NA beers just to name a few. None, however, have been successful. The beer industry has historically been nothing more than a copycat trade. For example, Michelob Ultra, one of, if not thehottest brand around, has had multiple breweries attempt to copy Ultra’s success with their own low carb beers. MC, Heineken, Pabst, Modelo, and a slew of crafts have all introduced an Ultra knock-off. With the possible exception of Corona Premier, all the copy-cats have fallen by the wayside.
The talk of the beer industry is the unbelievable growth of the seltzer segment led by White Claw and Truly. White Claw is the hottest brand the industry has seen, while Truly currently represents approximately 40% of Boston Beers volume! This is remarkable. The growth of the seltzer segment has not gone unnoticed by the other players. AB, MC, Pabst, and others have all introduced their own seltzer labels. To date, these brands have not even dented the growth of White Claw or Truly consequently these breweries are now moving to round two.
Pabst has introduced a higher ABV seltzer anticipating that this will drive sampling. White Claw is now moving to a lower ABV with a higher price point. The real disruptor could be AB with Natural Light Seltzer. Natural Light is a long-established successful brand which is very popular with college students and millennials. With Natural Light’s Seltzer at a slightly higher ABV and with a price point much lower and in line with Bud Light, anticipate these younger drinkers to try the brand. A higher ABV and higher price point may play into the hands of White Claws and Truly with little to no success, but the Natural Lights Seltzer could be the label needed to crash their party.
Will the seltzer segment eventually pass the craft segment? Only time will tell, however, look for the major breweries to continue to bring new seltzers to market, all hoping to gain some traction. What is certain are the headaches and problems wholesalers and retailers will have with these new brands.
You should learn from your competitor but never copy. Copy and you die.