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

SPI hopes to build on EPS recycling

November 26, 2014 6:00 am ET

Successfully recycling expanded polystyrene can be a challenge, there's no doubt about that. EPS, however, has value, is in demand and deserves to be ...    More

Image

Pan-European plastics recycling show scheduled for 2015

November 26, 2014 6:00 am ET

Europe is to get its first pan-European exhibition and conference aimed at the region's plastics recycling industry next year.    More

Image

Irish packaging group Smurfit Kappa opens film plant in Spain

November 26, 2014 6:00 am ET

Global packaging group Smurfit Kappa Group plc has responded to growing demand for its bag-in-box liquid container/dispensers by opening a new plant...    More

Image

World Plastics Council takes on sustainbility for its initial priorities

November 25, 2014 9:51 am ET

The recently formed World Plastics Council (WPC) has set marine debris and post-consumer recycling and energy recover as its initial top priorities.    More

Image

Onex buying packaging group SIG Combibloc

November 24, 2014 9:05 am ET

ex Corp. will buy SIG Combibloc Group, the Switzerland-based manufacturer of aseptic carton packaging and plastics closures from New Zealand's Rank Gr...    More

Market Reports

Plastics in Brazil - State of the Industry Report

This in-depth report examines the Brazilian plastics industry from a historical and geographical context. Our analysts provide insight on economic trends and forecasts, growing manufacturing sectors that utilize plastics, private investment opportunities, market environment challenges, and innovations in R&D.

Data tables and charts on producer prices, trade, plastics production and end market indicators is also included.

Learn more

Plastics Recycling Trends in North America

This report is a review and analysis of the North American Plastics Recycling Industry, including key trends and statistics based on 2013 performance. We examine market environment factors, regulatory issues, industry challenges, key drivers and emerging trends in post-consumer and post-industrial recycling.

Learn more

Injection Molders Market Report & Ranking 2014

This special package contains our 132-page 2014 Market Report on the Injection Molding segment and our exclusive 2014 RANKINGS database of 500+ Injection Molders for a discounted package price.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

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

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

June 2, 2015 - June 3, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - Chicago 2015

September 16, 2015 - September 18, 2015Plastics Caps & Closures - September 2015

October 27, 2015 - October 29, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - New York - 2015

More Events