Ad Track: Beer brewers juice up their flavor varieties

It may seem heresy to purists, but flavored beers are going mainstream as brewers reach for sales growth.

The $90 billion beer industry only recently has seen a little growth after flat sales for about six years.

Meanwhile, sales of flavored distilled spirits and niche and upscale "craft" brews have shown that a splash of citrus, vanilla, berry or other flavorings goes a long way with younger drinkers.

"The name of the story is growth, and the only way to get share is to come out with something different," says Frank Walters, research director at Impact, which tracks spirits sales.

Now, mainstream Bud Light will try for a taste of the action. Anheuser-Busch budwill introduce Bud Light Lime (with real lime juice) in May with a $35 million marketing push.

A-B's decision to flavor a flagship brand and not create a new label signals a change in attitude by beermakers.

"By putting the Bud Light name to it, Anheuser-Busch is signaling that they envision some kind of mainstream opportunity," says Benj Steinman, editor of industry newsletter Beer Marketer's Insights. "It's not just a small niche. Otherwise, they would not put the Bud Light name to it."

Miller Brewing, meanwhile, is expanding package options for its second season for Miller Chill, a light beer flavored with lime and salt. Miller decided to market its flavored light beer under its own brand name.

Sales of flavored white spirits, such as vodka, grew 60% from 2001 through 2006, the most recent year available, and are now 25% of all white spirits sales, according to Impact. Absolut vodka, a pioneer, now comes in 10 flavors, including Peppar (pepper), Mandrin (orange), Mango, Vanilla and the latest, Pears.

Niche and pricey brews known as "craft" beers have created varieties with such added flavors as raspberry, cranberry and pumpkin. Craft beer sales were up 17% in 2006 vs. 2005, while all domestic beer grew just 2%.

A-B, the world's largest brewer, began exploring flavors in 2005 but took its first swig only last spring, with Michelob Ultra in Pomegranate Raspberry, Lime Cactus and Tuscan Orange Grapefruit flavors.

Last month came Budweiser & Clamato Chelada and Bud Light & Clamato Chelada, beers mixed with Clamato Tomato Cocktail, a clam-juice-flavored, Bloody Mary-type mixer.

"The palate for consumers has broadened, and they are looking for more variety. We need to keep up with that," says Dave Peacock, vice president of marketing.

Peacock says lime will be priced at a $1 premium per six-pack over regular Bud Light. Nevertheless, he expects 20% of Bud Light lime volume to come from Bud Light.

He has no concerns about alienating the core Bud Light drinker, however. "Loyalists don't want lime beer," he says. "But about 29% of beer consumers have some form of sweeter palate."

Coors Brewing taphas no plans for flavored varieties of its best-selling Coors Light brand, says spokeswoman Jenny Volanakis, but will continue to offer seasonal flavors for its fast-growing, Belgian-style Blue Moon brand.

Sales rose 51% last year vs. 2006 for the brand that sells for $2 more per six-pack than the average $4.99 for Coors or Coors Light. Blue Moon seasonal brews include pumpkin for fall, lime for spring, honey for summer and dark Belgian sugar for winter. "It's a way to bring new drinks into the fold," Volanakis says. "It's a growing opportunity for beer."

Miller Chill, meanwhile, will get more packages and new ads in April. The brew now will be sold in fancy, slim, 12-ounce cans and 16- and 22-ounce aluminum bottles, as well as the original glass bottles.

"With the introduction you want to keep it simple," says Randy Ransom, chief marketing officer at Miller Brewing. "This year, the job is to get more people to try it."

Its very own label

Julian Green, a Miller spokesman, says it was decided to give the brew its own Miller Chill label and not make it a variety of Miller Lite because marketers believe it sounds "more premium."

Despite being 30% more expensive than its Miller Lite shelf-mate, Miller Chill racked up $40 million in sales since last July, Ransom says.

While some Chill buyers, about 10%, are defectors from other Miller brands, he says, Chill also has helped sales overall: In 16 of Miller Chill's 20 best markets, sales of Miller Lite also increased about 10%.

Ransom has experience with flavors. He's a former Coke marketer who helped introduce Coca-Cola with Lime in 2005.

"The average Joe is looking for more variety in what they eat and drink," he says. "It's a new generation."


Slurpee with a buzz.

Mix one part Slurpee with one part cappuccino and what do you get? A Slurpuccino, of course. It's the first coffee-flavored Slurpee sold at 7-Eleven stores. At 61 calories per 8-ounce serving, the fat-free frozen Joe won't widen the thighs. And it costs the same as other Slurpees: 99 cents for a 12-ounce cup to $1.69 for 40 ounces.

Developed for 7-Eleven by Coca-Cola ko as a better-for-you alternative to coffee, the caffeine level is kid-friendly at 5 milligrams per 8-ounce serving, vs. 100 to 175 milligrams for a cup of coffee. The purpose isn't to hook kids on java, says Jay Wilkins, category manager for Slurpee. Rather, coffee flavors are hot right now with young adults ages 18 to 34.

Nuthin' but a drinks thang.

Dr. Dre, granddaddy of gangsta rap whose hits include Nuthin' but a G Thang, has joined Paul Newman, Willie Nelson and Donald Trump at Drinks Americas. Dre will develop and help market a cognac and sparkling vodka to join Drinks Americas' lineup of celebrity beverages. They include signature brands such as Paul Newman's Own Lightly Sparkling Fruit Juice, Willie Nelson's Old Whiskey River Bourbon and Trump Vodka.

Agency for the planet.

Peggy Atkins, a 25-year ad veteran from Chicago, figures what the world needs now is an agency that helps make it greener. She's opened Imagine Works to create and run ad campaigns for efforts "that lead to a better world." Clients could include alternative-fuel providers, recycling programs, farm co-ops and sustainable builders.

Beach blanket beauty.

For a couple of days at least, the American Association of Cosmetology Schools will try to change Daytona Beach, Fla.'s spring-break reputation from "Girls Gone Wild" to "Girls Gone Styled." The group will recruit students by offering tricks of its trade to high school and college spring breakers on March 18-19. Pros will provide free manicures and make-up applications at a local hotel, as well as brochures that promote going to beauty school.

Jim Cox, the group's executive director, says cosmetology is an ideal career today: entrepreneurial, creative and unlikely to be hit by automation, globalization or recession.

"These are jobs that aren't going to be shipped oversees, and they're not going to be replaced by a computer," he says. "And even when times are bad, people still want to look and feel good."

High-speed wireless.

Ryan Newman was the surprise Daytona 500 winner in his Dodge sponsored by wireless carrier Alltel. Now, he'll promote Alltel's My Circle 500. Fans can text RACE to 38229 or visit to enter to win up to $500,000.

Ten finalists chosen at random, and a "pit crew" of their friends, will compete against each other — and Newman and his crew— in a go-kart time trial and a pit crew tire-changing contest. The fastest finalist team wins $200,000. If they beat Newman's team, they land $300,000 more.

Fish oil kick.

Soccer and tabloid star David Beckham has a new endorsement: Omega-3 fish-oil supplement Go3. It's no stinky deal. Beckham is hot, and so is Omega-3. Like Beckham, it's also expensive: 30 days of adult or junior formula is $21.95 at

Sharp move.

The Sharper Image shrpsaid it would stop taking its gift and rewards cards and gift and merchandise certificates as a result of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in February. On Feb. 27, Brookstone moved to grab those customers: Their now-worthless credits will be honored for a one-time 25% discount off an entire purchase at a Brookstone store.

Just regular folks.

You wouldn't think digestive relief would lend itself to celebrity endorsements, but actress Jamie Lee Curtis now discusses "occasional irregularity" in new ads for Dannon yogurt Activia.

Meanwhile, outspoken tennis great John McEnroe is promoting a "10-day Challenge" to increase fiber intake with Kellogg's All-Bran cereal.

Curtis' take is demure. McEnroe gets to the point. For instance, on All Bran site, he offers tips and inspirational messages for the 10-day path to a regular life. Examples:

•Day 2: "Who knew No. 2 could feel this good."

•Day 3: "Personally, I feel better when I let it all out."

•Day 5: "In this case, out is the right call."

Tuning out TV:

Some marketers have concerns about television as an ad medium and are relying more on the Web, says the Association of National Advertisers and Forrester Research TV & Technology study that in January surveyed 78 major advertisers. Some of the details:

•62% said TV ads have become less effective in the past two years.

•87% will spend more on Web advertising this year.

•44% are experimenting with TV ad models to work with consumer use of digital video recorders.

•49% are working on ad models for video-on-demand programs.

•87% said branded entertainment (such as sponsored shows) will play a stronger role in TV advertising in the coming year.

By Laura Petrecca, Theresa Howard and Bruce Horovitz


Q: What happened to the actor who played the Sprint Guy, the guy in the yellow T-shirt, in the Alltel ads? The actor they replaced him with doesn't look that much like the old one.

A:In ads since 2006, No. 5 wireless carrier Alltel has featured a crew of bumbling, geeky salesmen trying to get the best of Alltel's good-looking, wholesome spokesman Chad. The actors in their colored shirts represent Alltel's top brand rivals. Yellow is Sprint, spink is T-Mobile, red is Verizon and orange is AT&T t (formerly Cingular).

Michael Busch has been the Sprint guy, but when contracts recently came up and Alltel sought to secure the actors through 2008, Busch bailed.

He says on his MySpace blog: "I didn't want to be known as that guy at the expense of the other things I'd rather do, like TV and movies."

His agent, Melanie Truhett, says that Busch has a deal to write, act and produce a series for Web-based, an entertainment site with original content.

The new Sprint guy is Adam Herschman who already has been doing movies, including Accepted (starring Apple ad star Justin Long) and Soul Men.

Alltel did not make a big deal about the change, which has caused an Internet buzz. Many seem to feel that Herschman, a chubby, big-haired character, was slipped in surreptitiously and that Alltel should have addressed the change publicly.

Alltel says it sees no big deal in changing the characters — unless it would be their prized spokescharacter.

"The most important character to us is Chad," says Lucy Pathmann, director of marketing communications.

As for the Sprint guys: "It's great that people are actually noticing and seeing our commercials and understanding who we are. But we didn't feel there was any news."