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Miller Lite craft-style: Fish where the fish are

Beer pie chart

That’s us on the right. The nickel, if for some reason you can’t see the image.

Those are the light beer drinkers on the left. The two quarters.

If you had something to sell which group would you market to?

The context for this question is that tomorrow I’ll have details about the Miller Lite Brewers Collection (being marketed as craft-style beers). The sort of stuff listed in the mission statement, like about the ingredients and the brewer’s intent. (That’s not in this post because in total there are too many words.)

In 1972, the year that Miller bought Meister Brau and the rights to Meister Brau Lite (which would be launched as Miller Lite the next year) American brewers of full-calorie beer pretty much had a big old silver dollar to themselves. Imports accounted for 1% of the market. There were no low-calorie beers. There were no “micros,” just Anchor selling a few thousands barrels.

Today light beer accounts for half of beer sales. Imports claim 15% (and more in terms of dollars spent). Budweiser is the only full-calorie beer in the seven top-selling domestically brewed beers. And that nickel on the right keeps getting bigger.

Although definitions of “craft” beer vary everybody agrees it amounts to about 4% of overall sales. Throw in non-industrial imports and “craft” is more like 5%. Just as important, for people selling beer, is price. “Craft” and “super premium” (Blue Moon White, Leinenkugel, Henry Weinhard, et al.) together account for 15% of dollar volume (that’s why I dropped a dime in the middle).

The point is that most of the beer drinkers who in 1972 were consuming full-calorie pale lagers have gone elsewhere. More to low-calorie beer than any other category.

Miller BlondeSo if you were fishing for beer drinkers who might “trade up” where would you fish?

Not on the right. Those of us over there have made the trade.

Where the full-calorie drinkers hang out? Importers and and craft breweries have been there for 30 years.

Maybe the best spots are on the left. Those are drinkers who traded over to low-calorie beers, not up. Of course you have to give them a reason to spend more. That would be flavor.

Does the Miller Lite have a plan for that with its Brewers Collection? That’s the question for tomorrow.

11 Responses to Miller Lite craft-style: Fish where the fish are

  1. Swordboarder February 26, 2008 at 12:30 pm #

    Isn’t the reason the low calorie drinkers went that way because they didn’t want to spend the money?

    The other side of that coin is many of those drinkers are drinking to get drunk, and I’ve been told by some of them that flavor gets in the way. They usually want to drink one or two craft beers (or certain imports), and then switch to light beer so they don’t get “full”. (Been spending a little bit of time with my brother in law at Chico State)

  2. SteveH February 26, 2008 at 2:03 pm #

    (Been spending a little bit of time with my brother in law at Chico State)

    I didn’t even know they sold that sort of swill in Chico. 😉

  3. Stan Hieronymus February 26, 2008 at 2:41 pm #

    Steve – The idea of ‘drinking to occasion” is something Steve Beaumont has pointed out before.

  4. SteveH February 26, 2008 at 3:55 pm #

    Stan — I wasn’t funnin’ so much on the light beer as I was where said light beer was being supped! 🙂

    Reminded me of the 7 Amis I met at the Hofbrauhaus Munich who were tentatively sampling a Maß of dunkel (between them all) — stopped to talk with them and they were all students from Chico State on Spring break. They couldn’t believe I’d heard of Sierra Nevada in Illinois.

  5. Jesse February 26, 2008 at 4:18 pm #

    I tried some of the Miller Lite Amber and Wheat on Saturday at the Twin Cities (MN) Food and Wine Experience. They didn’t impress me much, but they were too cold and I’m probably not the target market.

    To Swordboarder’s point about drinking Lite to save money, I think part of the reason so many people drink Lite beer is because it’s what’s available. How many times have you gone to a place and asked what they have on tap to have the reply come back something like “Miller Lite, Michelob Genuine Draft Light, Coors Light and Budweiser”?

  6. Stan Hieronymus February 26, 2008 at 4:33 pm #

    Jesse – I’ll get into this tomorrow, but the Amber and Wheat are brewed with lager strains. At least the blonde uses an ale yeast.

    No, you aren’t the target audience – that is if you don’t hang out at too many places with those tap choices.

  7. Swordboarder February 26, 2008 at 6:28 pm #

    Jesse, unfortunately I wasn’t referring to what’s on tap (though I’m familiar with said situation). I was referring to a 30 pack of Natural Light at the same price as a 6 pack of Stone Ruination.

    Steve, it’s a sad realization, but despite having a beautiful brewery in Chico, they still have a steady following of light beer fans. It’s sad when you hear someone in the town say they’re going to splurge and buy Miller High Life.

    (I also managed to get through said event by bringing a growler of IPA with me. “Guy with a jug” is odd enough to be okay.)

  8. Stan Hieronymus February 26, 2008 at 6:46 pm #

    And that would be the Union Jack?

    I can envision the light beer drinkers fainting at a single whiff.

  9. Swordboarder February 27, 2008 at 11:37 am #

    It would.

    (Sidenote: We may be sending Union Jack to BevMo stores in AZ for a short period of time)

  10. diego March 27, 2008 at 9:47 am #

    i’ve seen their billboards “craft beer done light” and laugh a little each time. i’m happy being a nickel.


  1. Beer blog sampler » Hop Talk - March 27, 2008

    […] Miller Lite craft-style: Fish where the fish are by Stan Hieronymus, Appellation Beer I may not like most of the products from the industrial brewers, but their marketing types sure aren’t stupid. Stan offers an analysis of why Miller’s new “faux” craft beer won’t be marketed to us beer geeks. […]

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