MILLER LEADS MALT-LEMON RUSH;TWO POPULAR U.K. BRANDS ALSO ENTER THE U.S. MARKET

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Two malt-based lemonade drinks are expected to reach the U.S. from overseas this summer, but one U.S. brewer will beat them to the shelves.

MILLER'S ALTERNATIVE

Miller Brewing Co. today begins testing Wiley's Twisted Lemon Alcohol Drink, a clear lemonade-flavored malt beverage, in three Southern states.

Marketed by Kettle Moraine Beverage Co., Miller's "alternative" beverage division, Wiley's initially will receive limited point-of-purchase support only, a Miller spokeswoman said.

The Wiley's entry precedes the U.S. rollouts of two hot U.K. brands, Hooper's Hooch from Bass Brewers and U.K.-licensee Merrydown Wine's Two Dogs, anticipated as summer introductions in the U.S.

Last year, U.K. consumer groups criticized both brands for using marketing with likely appeal to underage consumers.

Two Dogs International, Adelaide, Australia, named Next Generation Marketing, New York, the U.S. licensee for Two Dogs "alcoholic lemonade."

IN EIGHT MARKETS

Ten Star Marketing, a division of Bass Beers Worldwide, expects to have Hooper's Hooch on shelves in eight markets this summer, said Andy Glaser, marketing manager of Bass Beers.

"Hooper's Hooch is the refreshing alternative to beer on a beer-drinking occasion," Mr. Glaser said.

Hooper's Hooch, which was tested in Miami and San Diego, will get point-of-purchase support, developed by Edinburgh agency KLP Scotland, he said.

LURING `EXPERIMENTERS'

"The primary consumers will be experimenters in the alcohol and non-alcohol sector," Mr. Glaser said, adding that the superpremium Hooper's Hooch will retail at $4.99 for a six-pack.

The lemonade-flavored malt beverage category could be viable if it doesn't get too ambitious right away.

"When U.S. consumers want a beer, they want a real beer-wine coolers just didn't compete with beer," said Manny Goldman, a PaineWebber analyst.

"Consumers are looking for different kinds of things, but this category isn't likely to set the world on fire," Mr. Goldman said. "If the marketers have a good product and can get some shelf space, that'll draw customers, but what they need are repeat purchases."

The first entry into the category does enjoy the most prominence, Mr. Glaser said, but "whatever [share] we get will be important."

Contributing: Geoffrey Lee Martin.

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