Starting in June: More Beast for your buck

Following the success of fellow economy brands Keystone Light and Keystone Ice, the Milwaukee’s Best brand family is transitioning each of its three beers into 15-packs starting in June, offering its drinkers more bang for their buck.

Colloquially known to its fans as “the Beast,” the Milwaukee-born brand will do away with 12-packs in favor of 15-packs for Milwaukee’s Best Premium, Milwaukee’s Best Ice and Milwaukee’s Best Light.

The larger packs have been among the hottest in beer, helping drive sales across all segments from economy to craft. MillerCoors also has moved craft brand Blue Moon into 15-packs this spring.

“If we’re priced right and we give some news to our consumer, we’ve got an opportunity to bring in new drinkers as well as regain some lost loyalists,” says Sean Robberson, brand manager for the Milwaukee’s Best family.

Milwaukee’s Best slipped in 2017, in part because changes made to the brand in late 2016 alienated some drinkers. The packaging on Milwaukee’s Best Premium replaced the word “Premium” with “Lager” and the ABV of Milwaukee’s Best Ice was increased. The label change on Milwaukee’s Best Premium confused customers, while the decision to increase the ABV of Ice turned off longtime loyalists accustomed to the original formula, Robberson says.

The changes were part of a strategy by MillerCoors to stabilize its economy beer portfolio, which includes the Milwaukee’s Best family, the Keystone family, Hamm’s and Icehouse, among others. The strategy, which as a whole is working, was built on taking risks. While some moves paid off — putting Keystone Light into 15-packs and introducing Hamm’s at an opening price point, for instance, catapulted both brands into Nielsen’s Top 10 Growth Brands — others did not.

“If all of these risks paid off, it would be seen as a sign that we hadn’t made big enough bets,” Robberson says. “Not all of them succeeded, and we moved quickly to correct course. We do think there’s light on the horizon.”

Both moves were reversed by summer 2017 after the brand received feedback from the marketplace, and Milwaukee’s Best is working to bring those drinkers back into the fold. Some signs of recovery are beginning to appear, including in the brand’s biggest market, Ohio, where the brand family began to stabilize last fall and is in the black so far this year, says Mike Nuss, the MillerCoors general manager for Ohio and Kentucky.

“The big learning to come out of all this is don’t mess with somebody’s beer,” Nuss says. “But I thought we reacted pretty darn quickly to reverse course and get back to what works. And we’ve worked to get the key packages at the right pricing back to our drinkers, which has been a stabilizing force for the brand.”

The move into 15-packs, Nuss says, gives brand teams “another good tool in the arsenal” to compete in a hotly competitive marketplace. “We should get a volume and a revenue bump out of it.”