Sun, sand, baseball, vacation promotions, million-dollar giveaways and a larger helping of red, white and blue are on tap for beer promotions this summer, grocers say.
The continued growth of light beers and strong performances by imports will secure prominent placement for these segments in both retailer and manufacturer promotional programs.
"People like lighter beers in the summer," said Rob Giusti, specialty buyer for Andronico's, Albany, Calif.
Light beers and imports, along with the new "malternatives," or flavored malt brews, are also pumping up the beer business, which for the most part has been rather flat.
Patti Councill, spokeswoman for A&P's Atlantic Region, based in Paterson, N.J., said all the major brewers offer Memorial Day and other summer promotional themes and tie-ins, "and we work with all of them. I think this year is probably going to be a big one. There's so much going into that to make this year's celebrations bigger."
Depending on the size of the stores, A&P can do massive displays on beer, working with the brewers on local themes and using beer to cultivate store loyalty, she said.
Anheuser-Busch will again run its Great American promotions for the Fourth of July, which it does specially for the A&P divisions. Banners will proclaim: "The Bud Family delivers the refreshment this Independence Day," with consumer offers.
"They [A-B] have new Latino and African-American POS [point of sale] -- that's good. 'Thirst for Summer' is their theme, along with stars and red, white and blue," Councill said.
"Right now, we are reviewing a consumer sweepstakes, geared to our operations in metro New York, such as a trip to Hilton Head [S.C.], and some other prizes. They do come up with programs specific to the chain. We are seeing much more of this now, and they do it around the country," Councill added.
A&P and its divisions plan to tie in with Miller's All-Star promotion, doing a Great American Brand program with Miller that will offer tickets to Major League Baseball's All-Star game. In its New York metro-area stores, A&P always sends some customers to the Yankees-Mets games.
Miller also plans a cross promotion with Planter's peanuts, and Anheuser-Busch will have one with Snyder's of Hanover pretzels, in the A&P stores.
Through the wholesaler, Miller also is offering consumer rebates on the 18- and 12-packs from April to September, Councill said.
For smaller stores, and those oriented toward the organic consumer, like Earth Fare, Asheville, N.C., beer can be a tiny category, due to the low margin yield and the competitive atmosphere. Earth Fare will carry Highlands, Flying Dog, the Czech brand Rebel and Anderson Valley, for instance, but not Heineken, said specialty buyer Whitt Neblitt. "Each of our stores tries to promote the local microbrewery," said Neblitt. "For patriotic holidays, we won't be pushing it. We will occasionally run a Fourth of July, or a Sam Adams promo.
"For summer we don't really push anything. We carry organic brews and try to find ever more representation in that subcategory."
Like Earth Fare, bigger West Coast retailer Andronico's caters to its shoppers with lesser-known microbrews and imports, looking to spotlight something unique. Specialty buyer Rob Giusti said he might run one domestic beer promotion for July Fourth, and feature imported Corona, one of their best-sellers, for Cinco de Mayo, but usually the mass brands are not for them. He hasn't promoted the malternatives much yet, but he expects the group will be "kind of popular" this year.
Andronico's carries Bison Brewery hard tea, in green tea and raspberry flavors, which Giusti says is favored by students at nearby University of California at Berkeley. For the Mexican holiday, Andronico's usually runs a themed ad and sells salsas, chips and tequila.
A category manager for an upscale regional Southern chain, who wished to remain anonymous, said certain brands work well with its demographic base. One of them is Grolsch, imported by United States Beverage, Stamford, Conn., which has two grocery chain promotions coming up. For Father's Day, Grolsch's green bottles will wear a tie to represent a "World Class Dad" in ads for May and June. Consumers get a free silk tie with purchase, or can buy the tie for $20. The "World Class Cookout" promotion follows in July and August. The exclusive Grolsch bar apron comes with the purchase of two six-packs, one 12-pack -- or for a 10-spot.
As for the so-called malternatives, he said "the category is exploding with activity, being driven by the introduction of new brands. They are coming out every week. They all have significant, recognizable brand names attached to them, and we will probably authorize all of them.
"We carry some now. We have carried them all along. Smirnoff and Bacardi have done extremely well, Skyy Blue is starting to come in and Captain Morgan [the next product coming from Guinness] is down the road."
Peter Dudis, director of grocery for Big Y Foods, Springfield, Mass., told SN in the first week of April that malt items were just breaking, causing a steady-to-slight increase in the chain's beer sales.
Smirnoff Ice and the other malts are merchandised with beer, and most of them have been authorized, he said. Last summer's beer sales were steady, he said. "Premium beers are still No. 1, followed by light beers and then imports, but the import category continues to grow in all our stores."
Big Y has no event-related beer promotions, "but we make sure we have big displays of multipacks, particularly around Memorial Day and July Fourth."
Of all domestic brewers, Anheuser-Busch has been the most successful, said Gary Hemphill, senior vice president, information services, for Beverage Marketing Corp., New York. A-B said it shipped the most beer ever in the fourth quarter of 2001, helped by a strong performance by Bud Light, its No. 1 brand. Coors Light and Miller Lite are the best-selling brands for Coors and Miller, as well.
Miller Lite is the lead brand in the "Miller Time Off" promotions this summer. Miller Time Off is a dual promotion-vacation promo, offering a trip to a resort in Key West or a high-roller Vegas vacation. For its distributors, Coors created a videotape that the Golden, Colo., brewer shared with SN, showing how POS materials on its 2002 "Summer Exposure" theme can be moved around to build small, medium or large displays in a store. The tape also served as a preview of summer ads that will support consumer sweepstakes for millions of dollars in cash.
Although Coors spokeswoman Hilary Martin claimed the overall positioning of the advertising appeals to a broad spectrum and a diverse consumer, the tape SN saw had the usual gorgeous bikini-clad beachgoers partying on the sand. One segment, though, for July Fourth, showed an American flag waving to the strains of Jimi Hendrix's "Star-Spangled Banner." "Summer Exposure" will break on national TV next month.
Coors recently won a five-year contract with the National Football League, signing the deal in late March. Martin said "our next step is to develop marketing events and promotions that will appeal to the key football fan." With preseason games starting in July, and the regular season in August, these promotions should begin appearing later this summer. New packages are the subject of promotions for some brands, like Heineken, which is introducing a 24-ounce keg can this summer. Grolsch, a premium Dutch import, has a new 1.5-liter swing-top bottle, and leading microbrew Deschutes Brewery, Bend, Ore., has a custom 12-ounce bottle from its own mold that mimics English-style bottles.
"We are changing the shape of our 12-ounce longneck," said John Bryant, vice president of sales and marketing at Deschutes. "It will be the same height, but with letters raised in the glass. Rather than putting a company name on there or a slogan, we are trying to enhance the product, so we are taking a product approach and putting hops and vines around the neck. The new package comes out in June, kicked off with our new year-round package which is called Quail Springs IPA [India Pale Ale]." Deschutes is carried by Safeway, Albertson's, Fred Meyer Inc. and QFC.
To promote the new bottle, the brewer is sending out a kit with the new package in a wooden box, like the blanket boxes carried by covered wagons, which can be used to build displays in the grocery store, along with burlap bags of hops and barley.
Deschutes sponsors the Sagebrush Classic, which has raised over $200,000 for children's causes in the central Oregon community. It's a two-day event, held July 19-20. The first day is a golf tournament; the second day is a classic feast, with 14 chefs from around the world preparing dinner for 1,100 people, each chef making his featured dish.
Bryant said the company also supports Boys and Girls Clubs and other charities. "You can call it brand equity, or brand relevance. People support products that make their community better," he said.