The summer-tinted, flavored malt beverage category has grown up around brand-name spirits, and expanding the choices with new flavors has become the name of the game. Indeed, approximately 40% of FMB volume is attributed to line extensions.
For Miller Brewing Co., Milwaukee, which owns SKYY Blue and its newly launched SKYY Sport line, nearly 50% of volume sales in the FMB category is made between Memorial Day and Labor Day, said Laura Emory, brand manager for SKYY Blue and SKYY Sport.
"Summer is the biggest selling season for FMB, so it was a great time for us to get our new SKYY Sport brand out and into the marketplace," said Emory. "Right now, we're promoting the SKYY Sport brand in entertainment, fashion and style magazines, and focusing on getting the product on store shelves so that when Memorial Day comes around, it's already out there."
Keeping up with the latest consumer dietary trends, Miller is reminding consumers that SKYY Sport has nearly half the carbs and fewer calories than most other flavored malt beverages on the market, she added. SKYY Sport tastes similar to the company's SKYY Blue product, but with a splash of cranberry as an added flavor.
Diageo-Guinness USA, Stamford, Conn., is in the midst of a promotional campaign of its own, pushing a new line of Smirnoff Twisted V products. According to Zsoka McDonald, spokesman for Diageo North America, today's FMB consumer is crazy about flavor.
"Flavors are very popular right now, but not just the typical flavors. Consumers want newer, more unusual flavors all the time, said McDonald. "They're looking for something different and something that makes them stand out, which is what our new Twisted V drinks have to offer."
The Smirnoff Twisted V line's flavor range includes green apple, mandarin orange, cranberry and raspberry. An unusual package design adds to the mystique.
Having achieved a 28 share in the spirit-branded flavored malt beverage category, St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch just introduced consumers to its newest Bacardi Silver flavor, Bacardi Silver Limon. The lemon-flavored drink joins the existing FMB line that includes Bacardi Silver, Bacardi Silver O3 and last year's Bacardi introduction, Bacardi Silver Raz.
Along with the promotion of new flavors and low-carb offerings, some FMB makers have also opted to change the size and packaging of their existing FMB products.
Jack Daniel's brand, owned by Foreman Brown, Louisville, Ky., recently upsized to a larger, 10-ounce bottle for its Jack Daniel's Country Cocktails, a line initially launched in 1992. The company also redesigned the label and packaging for its JDCC products, creating a more premium, upscale look. For example, the Old No. 7 stamp has been added to the label and bottle cap, Jack Daniel's signature is now embossed on the bottle, and the carrier and closure now exhibits stronger Jack Daniel's branding.
The company raised the price of the newly packaged beverages from $4.99 for the previous 7-ounce four-pack to $5.99 for the new 10-ounce JDCC four-pack.
Jack Daniel's will also be introducing a 16-ounce PET package in its Downhome Punch and Lynchburg Lemonade flavors, a new offering of plastic-contained products to be sold primarily to stadiums, amphitheaters and arenas where glass products are no longer allowed, according to Chris Vignoe, brand manager for Jack Daniel's Country Cocktails. And, the company recently launched its latest Country Cocktail flavor, Black Jack Cola, a combination of cola, lemon and lime and, of course, Jack Daniel's.
"JDCC will be featured in sales promotion materials under the core program umbrella of the Jack Daniel's Great American Grill Out, focusing on grilling center displays in major grocery chains across the country," said Vignoe. "We will also introduce the brand's new package size and new flavor to targeted consumers via an on-line advertising program being finalized now. In the fall, JDCC will be a part of the Jack Daniel's Great American Tailgate promotion in grocery outlets nationally."
While many flavored malt beverage-makers ready themselves for the long, hot days of summer, promoting coolers, Country Cocktails and other chilled drinks, Jim Beam Brands Co., Deerfield, Ill., has joined forces with Starbucks Coffee Co. to produce a hot caffeinated beverage with a real "buzz."
The partnership will result in the making of a unique Starbucks-branded premium coffee liqueur product that fits well with the upscale image of both brands.
"Extending the Starbucks brand into new channels is part of our long-term growth strategy," said Orin Smith, president and chief executive officer of Seattle-based Starbucks. "Many of our customers already enjoy coffee liqueur and would consider a Starbucks-branded coffee liqueur to be best-of-class."
Starbucks has joined with other brands in the past with great results. In 1995, the company formed an alliance with Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream to create Starbucks Ice Cream, which quickly became the No. 1 selling coffee ice cream in the United States. A year later, Starbucks teamed up with PepsiCo to introduce bottled Starbucks Frappuccino and the subsequent DoubleShot coffee drinks, which together represent a nearly 90% share of the U.S. ready-to-drink coffee market.
The company is hoping to see similar results from their partnership with Jim Beam. The new Starbucks/Jim Beam coffee drinks will be tested in two U.S. markets later this year, with licensed establishments such as restaurants, bars and select retail outlets ultimately expected to sell the "spiked" coffee. The product will not, however, be sold in Starbucks stores.