Molson Coors Beverage Co. plans to accelerate its investment behind a slate of new brands – including Blue Moon LightSky, Vizzy and the forthcoming Coors Seltzer – and hibernate its above-premium lager Saint Archer Gold, Chief Marketing Officer Michelle St. Jacques said today in a note to employees and distributors.
The “incredibly tough decision” to hibernate Saint Archer Gold was precipitated by vast disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which “caused an immediate loss of momentum for the brand, due in large part to not being able to execute critical brand activations and trial-driving programs that were at the heart of our launch plan,” St. Jacques said.
But the move allows the company to pour more focus and investment behind a pair of brands off to blazing starts, Blue Moon LightSky and Vizzy, and another the company expects to likewise burst out of the gates upon launch in the months ahead, Coors Seltzer.
“We couldn’t be more excited about the success we have seen so far on LightSky and Vizzy,” St. Jacques said. “In both cases we have a clear point of difference and awesome tasting products. Repeat purchases among consumers for both are incredibly strong, and we are seeing the brands continue to be picked up more and more through word of mouth.”
Blue Moon LightSky, a new low-carb tangerine wheat ale that hit shelves in January, has emerged as the top-selling new beer item introduced in 2020 by a wide margin, per Nielsen all-outlet and convenience data through June 27. It also ranks among the top four growth brands in the craft segment, per Nielsen.
Vizzy, the hard seltzer brand that contains the antioxidant Vitamin C, has made impressive inroads in the crowded U.S. hard seltzer market. Despite not launching nationally until April, its 12-pack variety packs rank as the No. 3 new item across the entire beer and malt category in 2020, behind only White Claw’s new variety 12-packs and Corona Hard Seltzer variety 12-packs, according to Nielsen.
Both brands “continue to exceed our expectations, and we’re just getting started,” St. Jacques said. “The choices we’re making today will allow us to put even more energy, resources and focuses behind these big bets and the upcoming launch of Coors Seltzer. We still have a ton of firepower ready to rock in 2020 behind these brands.”
Molson Coors and St. Jacques are equally bullish on Coors Seltzer, which is set to launch nationally in September in four flavors: Black Cherry, Lemon Lime, Mango and Grapefruit.
The decision to hibernate Saint Archer Gold, a light lager designed to compete directly against Michelob Ultra, comes as a direct result of the pandemic.
Although “early results of the launch were positive” and the brand “has a strong provenance, a fantastic liquid, stand-out packaging and was launched with enthusiastic support” from distributors, retailers and drinkers, the coronavirus upended its launch plans.
The inability to administer a nationwide sampling program in grocery and liquor stores and the near evaporation of the on-premise – a critical channel for brand building and introducing drinkers to new products – precipitated by mandated shutdowns in response to the pandemic, combined to complicate and undermine the brand’s launch.
“We have an incredible proposition with this brand, and the enthusiasm for it from retailers, distributors and consumers once they tasted it was truly remarkable,” said Brad Nadal, president of Saint Archer Brewing. “This was a matter of drinkers not having the ability to go taste Saint Archer Gold at the ballpark, or at a concert or our ability to connect with them in store aisles and have a conversation. When you don’t have those levers to get consumers to try your product, you’re stuck in an unfortunate position.”
Despite the decision to hibernate Saint Archer Gold, St. Jacques said “this decision is in no way a reflection of the team at Saint Archer Brewing Company, their talents or their dedication to brewing high-quality beers. In a demanding marketplace, they continue to brew great beers like Hazy IPA, Tropical IPA and the popular 50/50 multipack franchise. And we’re looking forward to what’s next from our great San Diego craft partners."
Excluding Saint Archer Gold, Saint Archer as a whole is up 15.7% in case volume year-to-date, according to Nielsen all-outlet and convenience data through June 27. Its 50/50 pack is leading the way with Hazy IPA close behind. Saint Archer Tropical IPA, meanwhile, ranks as the No. 1 fruited IPA released in California over the past 52 weeks, Nielsen data show.
Molson Coors has committed to continue Saint Archer’s Seek Gold program, a grant-style initiative to support the next generation of Black athletes, particularly in lifestyle sports like surfing, skating, volleyball and more. Through the Seek Gold program, the brand will provide emerging Black athletes with a total of $100,000 in 2020 to support their paths to success.
“While we’re sad about hibernating Saint Archer Gold, we’re still full believers in the brand, and we hope to bring it back with full force when the time is right,” Nadal said. “But for now, we’re really excited about the acceleration of our craft portfolio and are concentrated on driving our mission, and that’s to be the most-desired California craft. The future is nice and bright.”