It's summertime and the promotions are easy -- especially within the beer category. "Beer during this time of year just sells itself," Rob Giusti, beverage and bottle shop category manager for Andronico's, Albany, Calif., told SN.
In this day and age of cross-channel buying, however, retailers still have a number of special promotions lined up, which will include occasion-based displays and even demonstrations where permitted.
For example, Jungle Jim's, Fairfield, Ohio, is planning to highlight the Corona brand in a Cinco De Mayo-themed display complete with a mini tiki hut on its main floor, said David Schmerr, wine and beer director.
The retailer, which houses a 25,000-square-foot beer and wine department in its only store, conducts sampling year-round on the main floor and hosts beer tastings in its second-floor cooking school once a month. Summer ales are part of this year's warm-weather line-up, and attendees will have the opportunity to sip 10 different beers, along with some food, while listening to guest speakers.
"For summer, because it's the biggest beer [season] of the year, we've got some promotions tying in," said Schmerr. "We probably do our biggest promotion with Samuel Adams for Fourth of July because it's the all-American beer, and [the manufacturer does] a lot of advertising around [it], too."
Jungle Jim's will also toast Triumph motorcycles this summer in conjunction with Fullers, an authentic English beer, in which one of the legendary bikes will be on display inside the store, he added.
Food Lion, based in Salisbury, N.C., is taking the four-wheeled approach to beer promotions, as its stores are located in prime NASCAR territory.
Pallet displays generate interest without signage. / Pony kegs are part of the SKU mix in Jungle Jim's beer department.
"Due to local ordinances in our operation areas, we cannot use much of the beer-merchandising materials. Some of our stores can't even sell beer," said Jeff Lowrance, spokesman. However, he said the stores plan to use "some freestanding displays provided by distributors, and some racing-themed materials."
One theme that retailers and manufacturers seem to be shying away from a bit is the overtly sexual imagery that so often accompanies advertising for alcoholic beverages.
"There's going to be a degree of sensitivity to that," predicted Darrell Jursa, president of Liquid Intelligence, a beverage marketing agency based in Chicago. "[But] I think whenever you're dealing with alcohol, you're always going to deal with sex -- no matter what. In some cases, people like that. They might not like nakedness in the South, but they'll love it in the North."
Customers won't see any sexy beer displays at Andronico's out West as long as Giusti runs the beverage department. "I won't allow that in my store. I just take it and toss it out," he told SN, referring to ads that feature scantily clad women.
What he intends to showcase instead this summer are displays that work cross merchandising between departments into their message.
"With cross merchandising, [the manufacturers] are kind of creating that theme, that event of, 'Hey, I'm going to grab some beer, some chips, some barbecue sauce [and] some meat, and I'm going to have a good time and enjoy my time at home,"' Giusti said.
Jungle Jim's is currently in the midst of a major store overhaul, adding 60,000 square feet; under normal conditions, cross merchandising is always part of beer promotions, Schmerr said. In the past, he has cross promoted Corona beer with limes and, with his department located right next to the in-store bakery, he expects to be tying in beer with some low-carb breads this year.
Indeed, cross merchandising is one of the primary themes in the campaigns the major beer vendors have slated for summer.
Anheuser Busch, St. Louis, will be offering grocers a cross-merchandising program simply called "Eat, Drink," which will include point-of-purchase materials featuring ice-cold beer and summer food items, according to Dan Hoffmann, group director of sales promotion for the beer giant. A savings booklet is also part of the mix, containing up to $14 of instantly redeemable coupons for items such as Kingsford charcoal, Pringles chips and Pace picante sauce.
"What grocery retailers ask us for is, 'Don't just grow the beer category. Grow my total-store sales.' Our grocery retailers are all over [cross-merchandising programs]. We look at the beer category as representing about 3% of a grocery store's sales. When we tie in all these partners, we're now representing categories in the store that represent over 15% of their sales," Hoffmann said.
Coors is also offering a summer savings coupon booklet featuring more than $60 worth of grocery rebate offers -- an increase over last year -- as part of its "Cool Down Easy Summer" campaign.
"We want to make sure we are providing our retail partners with opportunities to generate incremental ring throughout the summer key beer-selling season. Our biggest grocery accounts love the fact that we can bring them increased purchase size across several important categories," said Brian Smith, key accounts grocery director at Coors.
"A lot more companies are being attentive to what needs to go out there in the marketplace," agreed Jursa, the consultant. "There's a lot of battles going on right now -- whether it's the low-carb or the imports -- so they really have to show the retailers that they know what they're doing, they know how they're doing it, and they know that what they're doing is going to move volume for retailers because the holidays are right around the corner."
Manufacturers are also cross promoting their brands with nonfood items in POP displays this summer, and music appears to be a popular theme.
"Our approach to summer, given it is the key beer-selling holiday period, is the complete portfolio. We've got offerings for the premium Bud family, for our high-end Michelob and Bacardi brands, and for our sub-premiums," said Hoffmann of Anheuser-Busch.
Traditionally, A-B packages the three summer holidays -- Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day -- together in one selling effort called "Bud Summer." This year, however, because of the brand's growing involvement with the world of music, the campaign is called "Bud True Music Summer." The music theme will be represented in all advertisements. POP displays will feature lifestyle photography of a woman wearing headphones. Other elements, including a consumer sweepstakes to win an Apple iPod and an end-of-summer concert simulcast in 40 markets around the world, are also planned.
POP materials for the Milwaukee-based Miller Brewing Co.'s "Taste It All" summer program link the brand to the 50th anniversary of rock and roll. Partnering with Rolling Stone magazine, Napster and guitar-maker Fender, Miller plans to release commemorative cans and is preparing an end-of-season concert in New York.
"Rock and roll sticks to its heritage while it innovates, just like Miller -- the music itself as well as how you use it, vinyl to mp3s," said Molly Reilly, communications manager for Miller.
LOW-CARB BEER TURNS OUT HIGH SALES
Beer has not been immune to the low-carb craze. Manufacturers are responding in full force by developing brews that fit into some of the more stringent diets, and retailers report that sales are jumping.
At Rice Epicurean Markets, Houston, there isn't a lot of emphasis put behind the beer category because the specialty retailer's clientele seems to prefer wine, according to Scott Silverman, vice president of specialty food and wine. Yet, even there, low-carb is making an impact.
"Beer is a small segment of our overall alcoholic beverage business, and is the least profitable when compared with wine. The growing bright spot in the category for us are the low-carb entries including Aspen, Rolling Rock Green Light and, of course, Michelob Ultra. They are really taking off and breathing new life into the category for us," Silverman said.
"We sell so much Ultra that we make that product readily available for the customers," said David Schmerr, wine and beer director at Jungle Jim's, Fairfield, Ohio.
In fact, Michelob Ultra has become one of the fastest-growing beer brands due to the changes in dieting. According to statistics from Information Resources Inc., Chicago, sales of Ultra grew 473.5% to $202.2 million for the 52 weeks ended Jan. 25, 2004, in the food channel alone.
Anheuser-Busch, manufacturer of Ultra, plans to play up its adaptability to a healthy lifestyle in its point-of-purchase materials this summer by highlighting the brand's involvement in tennis, golf and running sponsorships.
"What we're finding is that Michelob Ultra is actually bringing in new interest and driving sales for the entire Michelob family," said Dan Hoffmann, group director of sales promotion for Anheuser-Busch.
Retailers told SN that as other low-carb varieties slowly enter the market, they draw even more attention to the category. Coors Brewing Co. recently launched Aspen Edge, while Miller Brewing Co. has been positioning its longtime Miller Lite brand as a low-carb option.
"We've had a lot of people ask for this new low-carb beer called Aspen Edge," said Jungle Jim's Schmerr. "Apparently in other markets it's doing really well."
Andronico's, an 11-store operation based in Albany, Calif., currently carries about four low-carb beers, enough for its own section in the opinion of Rob Giusti, beverage and bottle shop category manager.
"I have recommended [that] our stores create a low-carb shelf. Instead of putting Michelob Ultra with Michelob, maybe create a section where you have all your low-carb beers together."