Coors, GSD&M hope ice beer catches fire

Coors Brewing Co. may be carefully weighing its options before taking a dive into the ice beer category, but the brewer inched closer by assigning Austin, Texas-based GSD&M a Coors ice project.
Insiders said Coors handed GSD&M the project after considering both GSD&M and Chicago-based Tatham Euro RSCG for a number of new-product ideas. While both agencies are working on specific new products, Coors’ ice beer seems to have the most potential. Insiders said if Coors does move on the brand, it could see a budget of $10-15 million.
But that remains an if. According to Coors officials, the ice category hasn’t been sufficiently tested yet in the U.S. They want to be sure they don’t run into the same problems No. 1-brewer Anheuser-Busch encountered when it launched Bud Dry.
Like the ice beer category, dry beers showed strong potential early on. But repeat sales dwindled after the first wave of interest.
“We have studied (the ice category),” said Coors director of new products and development Bob Joanis. “Right now in the U.S., you have two different kinds of products out there. You have ice beers and you have the Genuine Draft attack. We’re not convinced either shows it is a viable category.”
Joanis said GSD&M is working on new products, but wouldn’t say whether an ice brew was one of them.
GSD&M officials wouldn’t comment at press time.
Finding a legitimate new category remains one of the biggest problems all brewers face, and Coors, unlike its other major competitors, doesn’t want to jump into a category unless it’s been tested. Coors announced last week that it was launching its clear-malt Zima product nationally beginning in February after a lengthy test market, saying the clear-malt beverage does provide opportunity in a new category.
“We have decided it is something that isn’t a fad,” Joanis said. “It has shown tremendous potential.”
If Coors moves ahead with plans for an ice beer, it will be the last major brewer to do so. Miller Brewing has two ice beers with its super-premium priced Molson Ice and Ice-house, which are both national. Miller confirmed it is working on a third that would use the Miller name (see page 1).
Anheuser-Busch launched its Ice Draft from Budweiser to much fanfare this fall. It is expected to go national early next year.
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