MillerCoors is putting the freeze on Miller Chill.
The lime-flavored beer, which was once locked in a high-profile battle with Bud Light Lime, will be discontinued next year as the brewer focuses on other priorities, including the upcoming launches of higher-alcohol Miller Fortune and Smith & Forge Hard Cider.
"We have been very vocal about our desire to evolve our portfolio to the fast-growing and higher margin segments of the beer business…especially at the high end," spokesman Jonathan Stern said in an email, referencing brands such as Redd's, Third Shift and Leinenkugel Summer Shandy. "As part of this initiative, we are trimming low-volume and low-value SKUs and brands," including eliminating Miller Chill, he confirmed. He said the moves would be "carefully managed with our distributors and chain customers on a market-by-market basis over time to ensure we maintain shelf space and replace with higher velocity SKUs."
The brewer has already discontinued Southpaw Light, a low-profile economy brand, and it will scale back another small brand called Red Dog. "Those brands are being cut to make way for these high net revenue brands and that's a big focus next year," CEO Tom Long said on a recent earnings call.
When Miller Chill launched in 2007 it was promoted as fusing "great light beer from America and the chelada-style from Mexico." The original formula added a "hint of lime" and "pinch of salt" to beer and was packaged in a green glass bottle. The brewer backed it with significant ad spending, including a "live commercial" on NBC's "Late Night," in 2007, when the show was hosted by Conan O'Brien. Other ads encouraged drinkers to "taste the thrill."
The launch was considered to be successful, with the brand reaching 450,000 barrels sold by early 2008, good for a 0.3% market share, Ad Age reported at the time. But the brand suffered when Anheuser-Busch debuted Bud Light Lime in 2008, which got its own hefty ad budget and rocketed out of the gate.
MillerCoors responded in 2009 by reformulating Chill with more lime flavor and putting it in a clear bottle. The brewer also lowered Chill's calories and carbohydrates, putting it about half the level of carbs contained in Bud Light Lime, it was reported at the time.
But Lime and Chill have both suffered lately. Sales of Bud Light Lime fell by 11.04% to $291.4 million in the year ending Oct. 6, giving it about 0.98% share of the beer category, according to IRI, which does not includes sales at bars and restaurants.
A-B InBev still supports Bud Light Lime with advertising. And it has used the brand to launch line extensions in its growing line-up of "Rita" margarita-flavored malt beverages in a can, including Bud Light Lime Lime-A-Rita and Straw-Ber-Rita, which have posted good sales results. This winter the seasonal Cran-Brrr-Rita will join the lineup. Ads will tout it as the "holiday drink perfect for any party," while other new flavors are coming including Raz-Ber-Rita and Mang-O-Rita for next year, Beer Business Daily reported Monday. (At 8% alcohol-by-volume, the brews are not exactly "light.")
MillerCoors, meanwhile, dropped ad support for Miller Chill more than five years ago. Sales of the brew plummeted by 35.7% in the year ending Oct. 6 to a mere $8 million, or 0.03% share, according to IRI. MillerCoors will remain in the citrus-beer segment with next summer's launch of Coors Light Summer Brew, which will hit stores for a limited time beginning on Memorial Day. The brand is handled by WPP's Cavalry.
The brewer is also planning significant ad spending for Miller Fortune, an above-premium brew launching next year that is aimed directly at spirits brands. The brand is assigned to roster shop Saatchi & Saatchi, New York. Ads will be "very sophisticated for beer," Chief Marketing Officer Andy England said on the earnings call, noting that bartenders will be encouraged to serve the beer in a "rocks glass" to mimic liquor.
Meanwhile, the Miller brand franchise's largest brew, Miller Lite, will get product placement in the upcoming Will Ferrell movie, "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues." The deal supports limited-time retro packaging that puts Lite in its original 1975 design.