Keystone Ice growing at face-melting rate

Keystone Light has gathered its share of headlines this year for a torrid run spurred largely by its new 15-packs. Now its upstart brother beer is starting to make waves in Nielsen scan data.

Despite not making its retail debut until late June, 15-packs of Keystone Ice broke into Nielsen’s Top 10 best-selling new items of 2017 and ranks as the No. 2 best-selling new item in the last 26 weeks. (It’s still overshadowed, of course, by Keystone Light’s 15-pack, which holds the No. 1 position by a landslide.)

Aided by increased distribution driven by value with its larger package size, the 5.9 percent alcohol-by-volume Keystone Ice is up 12.3 percent in sales dollars on a 20.8 percent jump in case volume over the four-week period ending Oct. 14, per Nielsen.

Year-to-date through Sept. 23, sales to retailers of the Keystone Ice 15-pack are up 36 percent versus 12-packs, and points of distribution are up more than 100 percent, says Sean Robberson, a MillerCoors marketing manager who oversees Keystone, Icehouse and Milwaukee’s Best.

“We have a couple of things going for us: We have the first-mover advantage and we’re bringing value to customers in a way that was not being delivered by anyone else in the market,” Robberson says. “The other major thing is we have significantly expanded distribution, which has helped get the beer in front of more customers.”

The idea to push Keystone Ice into 15-packs piggybacks off an earlier move by Keystone Light, which moved into the larger pack in January and hasn’t looked back. Keystone Light is up 9.4 percent in sales dollars on a 16.7 percent leap in case volume over the four weeks ending Oct. 14 and up 1.8 percent in sales on a 6.7 percent increase in volume year-to-date.

Like Keystone Light, which booked a 15.3 percent hike in total distribution points, Keystone Ice 15-packs were developed to better compete in convenience stores, a pivotal beer-selling venue where Robberson and his team thought the brand was underrepresented. That strategy, coupled with new packaging and increased investment in the brand family, is paying off.

“What we’re doing now is working,” Robberson says. “We are staying the course and focusing on rallying our network to lean into this momentum and gain additional placements.”