Happy New Year. Now get cracking: We outline challenges for 2013 and offer up some predictions
How low can you go?
Thanks to an increasing focus on the obesity epidemic and nonalcoholic beverages' role in that debate, the major players will heavily promote low and no-calorie options in the coming year. PepsiCo has rolled out PepsiNext, featuring 60% less sugar than regular Pepsi, and is planning a major push for Diet Pepsi beginning in January.
Meanwhile, Dr Pepper Snapple Group has found success with its Ten extensions. Dr Pepper Ten was rolled out nationally last year. And in January, 10-calorie versions of 7-Up, Sunkist, Canada Dry, RC Cola and A&W Root Beer will roll out nationwide, with a major ad campaign planned for March. Coca-Cola hasn't introduced any so-called midcalorie products but it is part of an industry effort to launch a CaloriesCount Vending Program. The vending machines encourage lower-calorie beverage choices, according to the American Beverage Association. The machines will be introduced in Chicago and San Antonio this year.
Craft or crafty?
The rising tension between big brewers and craft brewers could reach a fever pitch in 2013. Small brewers, led by the Brewers Association, in late December accused big brewers of "deliberately attempting to blur the lines between their crafty, craft-like beers and true craft beers from today's small and independent brewers." They are calling for more transparency so consumers know that smaller brands from big brewers, such as MillerCoors' Blue Moon, are made by a larger corporation. In response, MillerCoors CEO Tom Long wrote in a column published by CNN.com that "we respect the fact that some of our fellow brewers would want to differentiate themselves, but we're convinced that the ultimate assessment of our beers will not come from an industry organization, but instead from America's beer drinkers." He added that "while we may be big, we are still a company of beer people who take great pride in our beer culture and heritage."
Beer discovers its feminine side
In a rare moment of self-reflection, top brewing execs shared a stage at a beer conference recently and conceded that they hadn't been doing a great job targeting women. AB InBev North American President Luiz Edmond said that in the past the brewer has been guilty of portraying women "in a way that they were not necessarily at the same level" as men. But "you see that changing," he added. And it will likely keep changing in 2013 as marketers tailor new products for women, while using ads that skip the frat-boy humor for more-contemporary appeals. The industry really doesn't have a choice. Women account for only about 20% of beer drinkers. So growth from female drinkers will be key as brewers seek to recapture market share lost to liquor marketers in recent years.