Miller Brewing Co., known for its conventional slate of American beers, is hoping a brew with a Mexican twist can help pull it out of a sales slump.
The Milwaukee brewer is launching Miller Chill, a 110-calorie beer flavored with lime and salt, throughout the U.S. this summer after a successful test run in Arizona and several other states. Chill is Miller’s answer to the michelada, a drink popular at Mexican beach resorts usually consisting of beer, lime juice and ice in a salt-rimmed glass.
Miller, since 2002 the North American arm of London-based SABMiller PLC, plans to spend more than $30 million this year on television and print advertising for Chill. TV ads in local markets included the slogan, “Se habla Chill?” (“Do you speak Chill?”). Miller is counting on Chill to help it reverse a sales decline in North America and regain market share in the face of brutal competition.
In the U.S., beer giants Miller, Anheuser-Busch Cos. and Molson Coors Brewing Co. are struggling to increase sales of their flagship domestic beers, as beer drinkers increasingly reach for imports and small-batch “craft” brews.
Miller hopes Chill, which it calls a premium light lager, will appeal to light-beer drinkers seeking more flavor. Miller is targeting 21- to 35-year-olds for the new brand, says Randy Ransom, Miller’s chief marketing officer.
Miller isn’t positioning Chill as an alternative to Grupo Modelo SA’s Corona, the popular Mexican import often served with a wedge of lime, Ransom says, stressing that the two beers taste very different.
Michelada ingredients can vary; they sometimes include Worcestershire and hot sauce with a pinch of black pepper. Miller tested more than 20 recipes of Chill. It declines to discuss how the beer is made, citing competitors. The brewer began test- marketing Chill in March in Arizona, as well as California, New Mexico and Florida. The beer did so well that Miller decided after four weeks to launch it nationally – an unusually short trial period in the beer industry.
Anheuser, known for testing new brands, since March has been trying out a beer called Chelada – a combination of Bud or Bud Light with Cadbury Schweppes PLC’s Clamato tomato-juice cocktail – in California and Texas. Keith Levy, Anheuser’s vice president of sales and retail marketing, says the response has been “overwhelming,” particularly in the Latino market. But the company doesn’t have plans for a national launch of Chelada, sold in tall 24-ounce cans.
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