It was 41 years ago this March that Coors opened S. Texas. This rollout was much anticipated by both retailers and consumers as Coors was only available in 10 states and half of Texas. Despite the limited availability, Coors was by far the largest selling beer in all markets, with market share ranging from a low of around 35% to a high of around 70% in parts of Kansas and Oklahoma.
The largest trade channel in San Antonio was the c-store, however, the largest grocery chain was Handy-Andy, as HEB did not sell beer in 1976. The morning of the initial rollout all of the stores were anticipating delivery and had already provide shelf space in their respective cold boxes. The consumers were lined up to waiting to purchase Coors. Since we delivered the beer cold, it went directly into the empty spaces, which, at Handy-Andy, were right in the middle of Schlitz and Budweiser.
The premium section consisted of three beers: Coors, Schlitz, Miller Lite and Budweiser. The regional section was composed of: Lone Star, Pearl, Falstaff, Jax, and Busch. There were a few price beers, including Texas Pride and Buckhorn. Imports were limited, mostly Heineken, Becks, Carta Blanca, and Tecate. The line-up was simple, but that was the ways things were in 1976.
The spring resets for most grocery and c-store chains are now underway. As has been the norm in recent years, the number of new products available continues to overwhelm buyers. Buyers have their own criteria in which they reset their space, and because there is no industry standard, each chain is different.
At one time, boxes were set based on traffic flow. The number one beer got the first spot, followed by the number two beer, and so forth. Price beers occupied the final place. Over time, however, buyers learned to up-sell the consumer and some chains reversed the sets enabling the higher priced imports, the first spot. This sales tactic did prove to be beneficial.
Today, we see sets with a domestic section, an import section, a craft section, and a FMB section. These sections can also be split. This spring, a large chain had over 450 new SKUs submitted. Even the best chains cannot handle all these new products.
So the question is, can there be a more effective approach to setting space? The internet provided the initial boast to crafts by providing the consumer with the knowledge that these types of styles existed. What would happen if a hierarchy existed in cold box setting? A craft or beer might have to earn or qualify for a place?
Perhaps a highly awarded product with high ratings could get the prime space as earned at the GABF or another international competition. This way, all the pressure would fall on the brewery to prove they deserved the spot. A retailer could have a gold section, a silver section, and a bronze section, along with a current local section. The consumer could than decide how to buy based on industry hierarchy. This could prove to be an interesting concept.
Total Wine, with their thousands of SKUs, identifies beers with ratings, but not by a section. What would it look like if Total Wine created their sets by ratings, starting with the highest rating and decreasing down the shelf to the lowest rating. How many consumers would go to the end? How fast would those lower rated beers disappear off the shelves?
What is there to lose? Hierarchy works well in a stable environment…..