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Brewers Tap Into Growth With Flavored Beers

January 23, 2015

Like spirits marketers, brewers are pouring on the flavors these days. Most new malt products lately have featured a flavor emphasis, as beer marketers seek to broaden their consumer base and recruit drinkers from other beverage categories.

Anheuser-Busch’s introduction of Bud Light Lime-A-Rita in 2012 was a pivotal move in the flavor direction. While initially intended as an “in-and-out” product, today the Rita franchise accounts for $1 billion in sales. A-B vice president, sales David Almeida says “beer is playing in hard liquor’s space” with the Ritas range, which largely targets females. The line includes four year-round offerings (Lime, Mango, Strawberry and Raspberry) along with three seasonals. A-B’s Shock Top brand also continues to push flavor innovation. In addition to its year-round expressions (Belgian White, Raspberry Wheat, Lemon Shandy, Apple Wheat and Honey Bourbon Cask Wheat), Shock Top offers seasonal and special-edition flavors like Pumpkin, Chocolate, Pretzel and Spiced Banana.

A-B’s flavor focus will continue this year with the introduction of Bud Light MixxTail flavored malts, targeting males. Packaged in eight-packs of 11.2-ounce bottles, MixxTail will launch with Long Island Ice Tea, Firewalker (cinnamon) and Hurricane. In March, the St. Louis brewer will introduce Oculto, a Tequila-flavored brew inspired by beer mash-ups and other infusions.

MillerCoors has long been active on the flavor front. In addition to the flagship Blue Moon Belgian White as well as Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin Ale, the line features seasonals like Valencia Grove Amber and Summer Honey Wheat, as well as specialty releases like Agave Blonde Ale, Caramel Apple Spiced Ale and Gingerbread Spice Ale. Last year, MillerCoors launched a year-round Blue Moon Cinnamon Horchata Ale in limited markets—which has gotten off to a fast start—and new Blue Moon flavors will abound in 2015, with the seasonal First Peach Ale launching this month, followed by White IPA (featuring coriander and a hint of orange) in February.

Other MillerCoors flavored brews include Redd’s Apple Ale, launched in 2013 and followed by a Strawberry Ale and the higher-strength Redd’s Wicked Apple last year. New flavors for Redd’s Apple and Wicked are planned for March. MillerCoors also introduced the Steel Reserve Alloy series in 2013, budget-priced, high-strength flavored malts, with BLK Berry, which was followed by Spiked Punch last year. Pineapple and Margarita flavors will be unveiled this year.

Craft and import players haven’t been shy in the flavor department. Boston Beer Co. produces Cherry Wheat, Chocolate Bock, Blueberry Lager, Juniper IPA and Maple Pecan Porter styles, among numerous others. Heineken USA launched Amstel Radler, Dos Equis Dos-A-Rita lager Margarita and Desperados Tequila-flavored beer in select markets in 2014, with Desperados reportedly set to expand nationally this year. Constellation, meanwhile, recently introduced Modelo Especial Chelada, containing tomato, salt and lime flavors.

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