NEW YORK MillerCoors announced this week that the malternative beverage known as Zima, introduced by Coors Brewing in 1992, would be discontinued.
The company expects to ship its last Zima orders sometime in December as distributors deplete current inventories on a first come, first serve basis. Production of the drink ceased on Oct. 10.
Andy England, CMO of MillerCoors (the joint venture between MolsonCoors and MillerSAB), cited in an e-mail to wholesalers the challenging malternative segment sales and declining consumer interest as reasons for discontinuing the brand.
"This decision is necessary to reduce complexity when it comes to our brand portfolio, allowing for more focused activity at retail on consumer-preferred brands, especially Sparks," England said in the e-mail.
Distributors are urged to replace Zima shelf space with alcohol energy drinks and with Sparks Plus four-packs and Sparks Light -- which are caffeinated alcohol beverages. Sparks is among MillerCoors' fastest-growing brands.
Zima launched almost a decade before Diageo introduced in 2001 Smirnoff Ice, the leading flavored alcoholic beverage in the category. Zima was ahead of its time, but it was Smirnoff Ice that triggered the malternative craze and a flurry of "me-too" entries that saw shipments in that segment peak at 6.3 million barrels during 2002, per Beer Marketer's Insights.
But Zima never seemed to rise with that tide. The brand endured three makeovers: First a masculine Zima XXX with 5.9 percent alcohol in 2004, then a female-focused version in 2006 with less alcohol and added electrolytes. Zima rarely broke 1 million in case sales. Sales in drug, grocery and mass outlets (excluding Wal-Mart) were down 53 percent during the 52 weeks ended Oct. 5, versus the comparable year-ago period, per IRI.
Overall, the progressive adult beverage category is off 6.6 percent. Case sales of the Smirnoff Ice brand family are down 11 percent, while Mike's Hard Lemonade brands are up 1 percent and Anheuser-Busch's Bacardi Silver brands are up 10.4 percent.