In the early 70s, I was a route supervisor at Schepps Distributing. The company brought in the first unique package of beer I had ever seen. It was called Barrel of Beer, from the Jos. Huber Brewing Co. The glass bottle was shaped as a barrel with a ring pull top. It arrived in a railcar and not on pallets. We had to unload it by hand which took us all day to accomplish.
We immediately sold the first container, but after the consumer got a bottle they quit buying the product. Once the novelty of the package wore off, the consumers went back to their old beers. I can only recall selling two containers.
By the mid-70s, Coors Brewing Co. still did not know the meaning of the word “marketing.” The brewery, not unlike many of today’s craft brewers, sold every single case it could brew, so why the need for marketing? The brewery was still known for their engineering expertise. Coors developed what was called “press tab one,” a can lid with two circles, one small and one large, which the consumer punched to open. Coors even developed an unusual opener that fit these two circles. After negative response from the market, Coors than came out with “press tab two,” now shaped as a triangle, where the consumer would press on one side, then the other.
Conceptually, this new can design was highly acclaimed by many, including all environmentalist, however, the consumer rejected this new design and Coors eventually went to the now push tab can opening.
Throughout the decades, breweries of all sizes have tried or tested many unusual designs in an effort to create sampling and brand awareness with the consumer. Perhaps the one design change that impacted the industry the most was when Corona, once in a squatty brown bottle, went to a clear longneck one. For many years the early success that Corona enjoyed was attributed to just that, the clear bottle. It is not unique but the results are dramatic!
Aluminum 16-ounce cans have recently been rolled out, MC with a 9 and 15-pack, and just last year, AB with an 8-pack 16-ounce package. These are offered to the consumer at a premium when one looks at per ounce pricing. These packages are in demand just for the resalable can.
Founders Brewing Co., which sells its beer at the upper end of the high-end pricing, decided to roll out its highly successful All Day IPA can in a 15-pack, priced at 12-pack pricing. In other words, three free on 12. This tactic is a great incentive to get the consumer to sample Founders sessionable IPA. One might expect other crafts to follow soon with similar packaging.
Meanwhile, AB decided to increase their 24-ounce cans to 25-ounces, while not raising prices. The industry will not know how successful these new packages will be until the end of the summer, but early indications are mixed. Some AB wholesalers are reporting no change in trends but some, in highly concentrated c-store markets, are seeing increases around +six%.
AB has told its wholesalers, it is now working to increase sales volume after years of declining sales and market share. Perhaps AB should study Founders Brewing Co.’s strategy and their idea of tactics. A one-ounce increase is a tactic, not a strategy.