MillerCoors lightens up with plastic bottles

Lorene Yue
CRAIN'S CHICAGO BUSINESS

Published: March 2, 2014 2:10 pm ET
Updated: March 2, 2014 2:26 pm ET

Related to this story

Topics Packaging, Sustainability, Blow Molding

MillerCoors LLC is putting its economy beers on a diet.

The Chicago-based brewer last month began swapping in plastic for glass in some 32- and 40-ounce beers, a move that shaves 1 pound from each bottle of its 10 least-expensive brews. There's a financial incentive for MillerCoors, which, like other brewers, has experienced slowing sales of its biggest brands.

Lighter bottles save on transportation costs, but they also give consumers a new way of looking at stalwart brands Miller High Life, Olde English 800 and Milwaukee's Best. The rollout of plastic bottles in three of MillerCoors' five sales regions is the biggest for any brewer.

"There's a dearth of innovation in economy brands," says Anna Tsurkis, marketing manager of MillerCoors' economy brands.

MillerCoors' biggest competitor, Anheuser-Busch InBev SA of Belgium, also is gunning for the price-minded consumer as it unleashes Busch Signature Copper Lager.

The larger-format beers were singled out for the change because MillerCoors sells "a fairly large" amount in those sizes, Tsurkis says.

Consumers in Los Angeles; Cleveland; El Paso, Texas; and Charlotte, N.C., liked the new look and were four times more likely to buy the plastic bottles, which retain the retail price of $1.50 to $2.30 each, in a 2012 test. Retailers and distributors were happy, too, as shatterproof plastic means less loss to damage.

"It's a defensive move," says Bump Williams, president and CEO of Bump Williams Consulting Co., a Stratford, Conn.-based beverage consulting firm. "MillerCoors has to come up with new packaging to put on the shelf to protect its [retail] shelf space. The brands that take up about two-thirds of shelf space are in decline."

Beer sales, particularly in the premium and economy categories, continue to slide as consumers gravitate toward spirits and wine. Sales of cases of domestic economy beers, such as Busch and Miller High Life, have fallen 12 percent since 2009, according to figures from Bump Williams Consulting. Domestic premium beers, such as Coors and Budweiser, lost 1.6 percent of volume in the same period.

MillerCoors reported that 2013 revenue grew 0.5 percent to $7.8 billion, with its premium light beers falling in the mid-single digits.

Plastic bottles, freely adopted in the soft drink and spirits industries, are still fairly uncommon among brewers despite their use at stadiums. While MillerCoors' move is novel, Williams says the move to plastic can give economy beer buyers the perception of further trading down.

"Consumers associate plastic with inexpensive beer," he says. "It damages the image of beer. Glass is quality."

Purists can breathe easier as MillerCoors says it has no immediate plans to convert any of its other brands or economy beer sizes to plastic.


Comments

MillerCoors lightens up with plastic bottles

Lorene Yue
CRAIN'S CHICAGO BUSINESS

Published: March 2, 2014 2:10 pm ET
Updated: March 2, 2014 2:26 pm ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

Dunkin' Donuts looking at PP to replace foam cups

September 19, 2014 3:22 pm ET

Dunkin' Donuts is testing a new polypropylene coffee cup that the company believes could help boost recycling.    More

Exo-s buys injection and blow molder in Mexico, expands footprint

September 19, 2014 2:15 pm ET

Custom molder Exo-s Inc. has bought an injection and blow molding operation in San Juan del Rio, Querétaro, Mexico.    More

Image

Study: 75 percent of Australia's ocean debris is plastic

September 18, 2014 7:48 pm ET

About 75 percent of the trash found in the waters off Australia's beaches is plastic, with most of that coming from local sources rather than sea-...    More

Image

P&G removing PE microbeads from its Crest brand toothpaste

September 18, 2014 1:57 pm ET

After months of prodding, Procter & Gamble Co., the makers of Crest brand toothpastes, say polyethlene microbeads will be completely removed from its ...    More

Image

PET to PET boosts recycling capacity

September 18, 2014 11:14 am ET

PET to PET Recycling Austria GmbH, a bottle-to-bottle PET recycling operation backed by Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling and several beverage manufacturers...    More

Market Reports

Plastics Caps & Closures Market Report

The annual recap of top trends and future outlook for the plastics caps & closures market features interviews with industry thought leaders and Bill Wood’s economic forecast of trends in growing end markets. You will also gain insight on trends in caps design, materials, machinery, molds & tooling and reviews of mergers & acquisitions.

Learn more

Shale Gas Market - Analysis of North American Region

This report highlights the impact of shale-based natural gas on the North American plastics market and features an in-depth analysis of production trends in the United States during 2013 and a forecast for 2014 and beyond.

Learn more

Thermoformed Packaging 2014 Market Review & Outlook – North America

This in-depth report analyzes economic and market trends, legislative/regulatory activity impacting supply and demand, business opportunities and threats, materials pricing, manufacturing technology, as well as growth strategies being implemented by thermoformed packaging companies.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

January 14, 2015 - January 14, 2015Plastics in Automotive

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

More Events