What is significant about today’s date, May 27th? Today is the 65th birthday of Jim Koch. Might be difficult to believe but it is true. The founder and head of Boston Beers is now eligible for Medicare!
The numbers for Boston Beers, founded by Jim in 1984, are nothing short of amazing! Just in IRI numbers in the MULC channel, the company is up +41% or +$50.7 million! What is interesting is that over 40% of that growth is Angry Orchard Apple, which is +157%. Helping those numbers is the new Rebel IPA which is now a top 100 brand and ranks as the number 10 craft in dollars. You can be sure that ABI and MC would love to have those numbers!
As has been noted, Boston’s success has been attributed to a number of key decisions made by Jim in the early years. The company has always been strategically focused and the sales team has executed against those goals. Even with the early struggles, the company kept its resolve and stayed true to their values.
Boston Lager not-withstanding, Jim first put feet on the street, or since his sales force was mostly female, one might say it was “heels on the street,” both changed the beer industry. Initially he looked at channels where he could target specific demographics for his beer: airport bars and high-end hotel bars where the customers had limited options and choices. Consumers were attracted to the taste and uniqueness of Boston Lager.
The advertising for his beers focused on the quality and ingredients used by Boston. No parties, busses, boats, bikinis, lifestyle, or athletes were used then, or now. The brewery only used the attributes of the brands. It is working for the consumer.
Think about what Jim and Boston Beers brought to the industry. One can start with the number of styles and flavors of the beer, and then add the uniqueness of the sampler packs and seasonal beers, and finally, the fact that Sam Adams Light was the first of the sessionable craft beers to market.
They introduced malt based teas, stuck with it and added different flavors. After a slow start, the teas now a hot and growing brand. Recently we have seen the fabulous success of Angry Orchard Cider. Angry Orchard is by far the leading cider in a very hot category and currently 20% of Boston’s volume. Boston is positioned well to take advantage of future growth.
Early numbers for the new Rebel IPA indicate another win for Jim. Rebel IPA has already become the number nine craft in dollars and cracked the top 100 beers overall. This was done in limited distribution!
A common question for the industry is “what is the next big trend?” Perhaps the industry should look to Jim Koch for that answer. He might not know, but more than likely the trend will come from his company, in fact it might be on his desk at this moment.
After leading Boston Beers for 30 years, the industry can count on Jim Koch to continue to lead his brewery. Let all of us raise a beer to Jim today on his 65th birthday, May 27, 2014!