The new creative approach aims to bring "margarita moments to
life in unexpected places," Ms. Monteiro said. Referring to the art
gallery ad (above), she said, "people have certain expectations of
what an art opening or what an art event is like … and
Lime-A-Rita can upend that." As for "Hot in Herre," she said the
brand purposely chose an older song. She described it as "wedding
hip-hop," meaning familiar songs that "make people take notice and
get on the dance floor."
By contrast, marketing for Splash will carry a more low-key
vibe, she said. At 4% alcohol-by-volume, the line extension will be
sold in glass bottles and positioned for weekday drinking. The 8%
ABV core Ritas line is sold in cans and aimed for weekend
While Ritas rocketed out of the gate in 2012, the brand has
struggled amid competition from entrants in the FMB category,
including Not Your Father's Root Beer, which is distributed by
Pabst. Ritas volume fell 23% in the fourth quarter, Sanford C.
Bernstein stated in a recent report.
In the early years, A-B InBev was able to maintain momentum for
Ritas by continually introducing flavors. The core lineup includes
lime, strawberry, mango, raspberry and lemonade in addition to
seasonal flavors like a forthcoming watermelon variety.
But the new-flavor strategy has not produced the same returns it
once did. "That flavor game gets more and more difficult to cycle,"
said Benj Steinman, president of beer trade publication Beer
Marketer's Insights. "You introduce a new flavor and you might not
get as much incremental lift, and all the other ones are
On an earnings call in October, A-B InBev CEO Carlos Brito
conceded that Ritas "had a tough year for sure." But he positioned
the Splash extension as a solution to the brand's woes. "We stayed
in one part of the market, the higher alcohol segment. And there
was a lot of activity in both the higher and the lower alcohol
segment, and we didn't capture any of the activity in the
lower-alcohol segment," he said. "So, now with Splash, we're coming
with a competitive solution for that segment."
But the brewer will face stiff competition. New flavored malt
beverage brands that have already hit the market this year include
Henry's Hard Soda by MillerCoors, which checks in at a modest 4.2%
alcohol by volume, putting it in line with most light beers. On
Wednesday, North American Breweries announced it would begin
selling Seagram's Hard Soda on March 1 in flavors such as cherry
cola, grape soda, lemon n' lime and orange cream. Even as it
invests behind Ritas, A-B InBev has entered the hard soda market
with a new brand called Best Damn Brewing Co., whose first product
is a hard soda called Best Damn Root Beer.
But all the new sweet malt beverages might end up turning sour
for brewers, according Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Trevor
"Successful brands in this sector tend to be like shooting
stars, burning brightly for a time, and impressing earth-bound
observers, before fading from view," he stated in a recent report.
"If anything, these cycles have become shorter as the fickle,
experimental millennial generation have reached legal drinking
Editor's note: Hear more from
Anheuser-Busch InBev at the 2016 Ad Age Digital conference. Azania
Andrews, Senior Director, Digital Connections, North America, will
be presenting during the April 5-6 event in New York City. Get all
the details here.