Molson Ice, which is sold under the brand name Canadian Ice in Canada, will be the first ice beer available in the States. If the encouraging sales results in Canada mean anything, the trend could well represent the hottest fad in the beer category since major U.S. brewers began slapping the word "dry" on their labels back in the late 1980s. Three ice brews, produced by filtering the beer through ice during the brewing process, have taken Canada by storm. Preliminary sales reports indicate that ice brews have recorded promising repeat sales, especially among younger drinkers.
A Miller spokesperson confirmed that the ice beer test will in fact take place next week. Lintas:New York is currently handling the assignment, although its work is limited to point-of-sale and promotions right now. Lintas is Molson's U.S. agency.
Canadian Ice is one of the ice beers that has jolted the Canadian beer market, which, like the U.S., is facing the same problems of a mature market. Anheuser-Busch, which has a stake in Labatt's in Canada, is said to be tinkering with the idea of rolling out an ice beer, although it is not clear whether the company would import the Labatt's Ice from Canada, or gear up a new brand of its own to be produced in the States.
Labatt's was the first out of the gate in the category, hyping its brand's potency of 5.7% alcohol content--which is the type of claim that can't be made legally in the U.S. "Strong beer at regular beer prices," is one line in the ad. Canadian Ice ads show mountainous scenes interspersed with shots of its amber bottle bursting up through water with the tagline, "Welcome to the ice age."
One knock on the emerging category is that it is too closely matched to the cold-filtered draft style that has propelled sales for Miller Brewing Co. "I'm not exactly sure what the difference would be in the consumer's mind," said one Miller agency source.
"The key to its success here will be to portray that it has more stuff than regular beer," said consultant Tom Pirko, president of Bevmark. "The Canadians have a reputation for producing beer that is perceived to be fuller. There seems to be a market for it."
With the introduction of the Molson Ice, 1993 is turning out to be one of the beer industry's biggest new product years in decades. So far, big splashes have followed entries into the clear beverage category, with Coors' Zima brand and Miller Clear. Miller is expected to spend a fair amount of money on the launch of the product in the U.S. if successful in tests. Anheuser-Busch is said to be working on a number of new products, the most promising being a cold filtered draft product now the subject of work at DDB Needham Chicago. A-B has also given Grey Advertising/N.Y. an assignment that is believed to be for a champagne-colored brew.
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)