Saint Archer Gold, a light lager developed to compete directly with Michelob Ultra, is going national in 2020.
After spending six months on shelves and in bars in four test markets, the above-premium Helles-style light beer booked strong sales and velocity figures — enough to get the green light to roll out across the U.S. in January.
“We saw a lot of green shoots and a lot of success,” says Paul Verdu, vice president of sales and marketing for Tenth and Blake, the MillerCoors craft and import division. “First and foremost, we learned that the idea itself is a winner. It’s highly incremental both to MillerCoors and the beer category as a whole. And to no one’s surprise, we found that when we get consumers to try it, they buy it.”
Over the course of the test, the Saint Archer Brewing and Tenth and Blake teams have sharpened their messaging around Saint Archer Gold, tying it closer to the active lifestyle story that’s part of the DNA of the San Diego-based brand, which was founded by professional surfers, skateboarders and snowboarders.
The light-bodied lager checks in at 95 calories and 2.6 grams of carbs per 12-ounce serving. It is aimed at active, health-conscious 25- to 44-year-old men and women and represents Saint Archer’s answer to growing demand for approachable beers with lower alcohol content.
“The primary thing that attracted us to Saint Archer from the start was the amazing job the team did building this brand naturally in the active-lifestyle space. Saint Archer appeals to consumers who live their lives for the journey,” Verdu says. “Saint Archer Gold was the next obvious opportunity and what we hope is the first of a line of better-for-you brands coming from Saint Archer.”
Saint Archer Gold is a light, crisp and refreshing beer but with a slightly more hop-forward flavor profile than competitors in the fast-growing above premium light segment. It is positioned as a more-flavorful alternative for younger legal-age drinkers seeking something more interesting than Corona Premier or Michelob Ultra, the latter of which gets nearly half its consumption from drinkers age 50 or older, Verdu says.
For the national rollout, Saint Archer Gold will do away with bottles and instead come packaged in six-packs and 12-packs of slim cans. It also is adding a single-serve 16-ounce can to help encourage trial and gain distribution into refrigerated singles shelves in grocery and convenience stores and entry into stadiums, arenas, festivals and events.
It will be backed by a substantial marketing budget that will include national television, digital, social and outdoor advertising. The big focus will be on retail programming and sampling, says Brad Nadal, president of Saint Archer. “We win when we sample. We know when people try this beer, they love it and they buy it. We are looking at what we can do to amplify those opportunities and we’re going to put significant effort into finding all of the places we can get this in peoples’ hands.”
During sampling events in test markets, 53% who sampled Saint Archer Gold purchased the beer, about 23 points higher than average, per data collected on behalf of MillerCoors.
“Sampling is very important for this brand,” says Jeff Zabel, a brand manager for Monarch Beverage, the Indianapolis distributor that participated in the test. Prior to the beer’s launch this spring, few in the market had heard of Saint Archer, he says. “But as soon as the marketing turned on, and we started hitting venues, liquor stores, bars and restaurants, the brand really started kicking.”
Although Saint Archer began as a craft brewery, Gold takes the brand into a new segment. Zabel says his team found that Saint Archer Gold was effective as a foil to Michelob Ultra. It performed best, in fact, when priced the same and merchandised adjacent to Michelob Ultra, one of the top-selling and growing beers in the category over the past few years. That’s a key goal for the brand as it goes national.
But Saint Archer isn’t just taking volume from Ultra, Nadal says. “Three quarters of its volume is incremental – both to beer overall and to MillerCoors.”
During the test, Gold also lifted the Saint Archer brand family by 22 points in Arizona, a market in which the brand already was distributed, according to MillerCoors data.
“It’s got a halo effect, and that’s one of the reasons we’re so excited about it,” Verdu says. “Everyone is ready for this. We’ve spent a year getting it right, and when we go broad with it, it’s going to be ready.”