Dan Fox
The views expressed in db Reader do not represent the views of the drinks business.

Enter the beer-co-pop

They all share basically the same recipe: Brew beer, take out all the beer taste and color, then add whatever pretty hue and sweet flavor you like.

9681924“Alcopop” was an inspired nickname. These beverages have no real essence beyond their “alco” content, and their sweet “pop” formulation. That said, there has been no lack of on-shelf creativity from the Big Booze likes of Jack Daniels, Bacardi, Smirnoff and Seagrams aiming for a foothold in the beer section.

In the past, Big Beer never much went after the alcopopportunity. Too risky, they thought. Why hand the anti-alcohol lobby a cause célèbre? Imagine the headlines: “Get Debbie Drunk: Big Beer goes after kids with soda-pop alcohol!” All the millions the breweries invested behind public-spirited “responsible drinking” messaging would go for naught.

Enter the beer-co-pop

Never count a beer marketer out.

Maybe tepid brewery sales trends made the new-growth opportunity irresistible. Maybe alcohol pressure groups have gone wimpy, no longer the threat they once were. Maybe hard liquor’s forays into malt beverages ultimately became too much to bear. Whatever it was, two years ago, Debbie got a new friend named… “Rita.”

BLLHigh alcohol (launched at 6%, subsequently upped to 8% ABV). Pretty colors. Fruity flavors. And in place of the imprimatur of a hard-liquor brand name, a hint of sophistication arrives courtesy of the margarita-inspired “Rita” nomenclature (under the odd Bud Light Lime parentage). And there’s even a good cover story for the anti-alcohol crowd: Margarita is already an adult beverage, so we can’t be marketing to kids!

That’s why you pour Rita in a pretty glass, before you party with her “all night long.” The music track in this commercial never actually uses that payoff title from the Lionel Richie song, settling instead for “Fiesta forever.” But pay close attention for the “Debbie appeal” when the line “Lose yourself in wild romance” is sung. And see who gets the Rita.

This may all be just another passing fancy. The latest sales numbers suggest that Rita could already be following the business trajectory of virtually every other alcopop. Initially there appears to be strong volume, but it doesn’t last. Apparently “flavor drinkers” like to experiment, and disloyally move on to the next new thing. The older Rita flavor varieties, for example, are falling while the newer flavors are growing. It’s called “churn” and may help explain why the liquor guys have pretty much slowed spending behind their alcopops.

Then again, who knows? It sure doesn’t look like one liquor giant, Diageo, has run up the white flag just yet. At least if these two recently approved alcopop labels are any indication. Maybe alcoholic soda pop really is the future?!?
Capt-Morgan-Spiked-Cola
C’mon, kids. Drink up!

Read more of Hey Beer Dan’s writing at his blog: http://www.plzdontletbuddie.com

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