Who’s Putting the Hurt on MillerCoors?

Ed McBrien, distribution chief for MillerCoors, compared himself to a typewriter salesman in the age of iPads at a beer industry summit last month, and it seems he was right to do so. The light beer segment is losing customers on both ends of the spectrum as many customers are being drawn to the new, more sophisticated kid on the block, craft beers, while others are losing their jobs and having to go to even more affordable brews. The squeeze led Molson Coors (NYSE:TAP) and SABMiller to team up in a joint venture to re-brand the once golden child, Miller Lite.

Bump Williams, owner of BWC Co. which advises more than 100 beer retailers and distributors, says if the light beer industry can’t revive Miller Light, “we’ve got big trouble ahead of us.” The new Miller Lite branding will bring back the classic “It’s Miller Time” slogan, and replace calorie and carb talk with a “brewed for brotherhood” theme. The brand will also focus more of its advertising on the peak summer sales season.

U.S. beer sales volumes have dropped for three consecutive years according to data from the Beverage Information Group. The decline has led retailers to give more shelf space to wine and spirits.┬áNick Lake, senior director of category management for Heineken NV (NYSE:HEIA)┬ácited Nielsen data showing beer to have lost 2.3 share points of display space while wine and liquor gained. At an industry conference last month, Lake said, “Our competition has convinced retailers that their categories are providing more value and have more relevance with the consumer.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Ashley Cloninger at staff.writers@wallstcheatsheet.com

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