Can iced-tea beer save big brewers?

Consumer tastes are shifting to spirits and other interesting beverage choices, and brewing companies are responding.

By Kim Peterson Mar 7, 2012 2:11PM
Image: Couple ordering meal in restaurant © NULL/CorbisThe trend is unmistakable. Beer has lost momentum in the beverage industry, taking a back seat to wine and especially spirits.

Brands like Skinnygirl Cocktails are advertising heavily and attracting new consumers. Bartenders are having a field day with new flavors like Pinnacle's Whipped Cream vodka. Beer, meanwhile, has seen sales volumes skid for three years running.

So beer makers are going exotic, developing new varieties that might make a traditional beer drinker cringe. Molson Coors Brewing has created an iced-tea beer called Coors Light Iced T.

The beer will launch in Canada next month and may expand to the U.S. down the road, The Wall Street Journal reports. It will have a 4% alcohol content but no caffeine.

Anheuser Busch Inbev (BUD) is also jumping in with a combination of beer, iced tea and lemonade. It's called Michelob Ultra 19th Hole Light Tea and Lemonade. It's also 4% alcohol, Advertising Age reports. It will launch next month in the U.S.

The big-name brewers have turned to tea after watching the success Boston Beer (SAM) has had with its Twisted Tea line. Sales of hard teas and lemonades rose by 54% in 2010, according to an Anheuser-Busch memo obtained by Advertising Age.

The following video has more about how Twisted Tea is almost entirely fueling the growth of Boston Beer. Is that sustainable for the maker of Sam Adams?

Post continues below.
The big brewers are doing what they can now, but the reality is that consumers have a huge array of choices at supermarkets, restaurants and specialized beverage stores. They have no problem buying wine and premium spirits at premium prices, and companies like Beam (BEAM) are wisely taking advantage of this enthusiasm in every way possible.

Craft beer, meanwhile, continues to gain momentum. There are 1,900 breweries in the U.S. and 800 more on the way, reports Beer Marketer's Insights. The big brewers are trying to compete on that end as well -- Anheuser-Busch bought Chicago's Goose Island brewery last year, for example -- but the dominance they once had over the U.S. beverage industry is slipping away.

Mar 7, 2012 4:39PM
Leave my beer alone.  I love my beer.  Don't need no stinking tea, ginger, oranges, or whatever else.  Just the beer please.
Mar 7, 2012 3:42PM
Mar 7, 2012 3:27PM
I like that "strip and go naked" beer.
Mar 7, 2012 4:53PM
Its beer for women and nancy, the beer miesters are turning in thier graves.
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