Brian Schmidt, marketing manager, non-alcohol for Molson Coors, said initial marketing plans for Golden Wing would focus on generating awareness and trial while positioning it as a bold and edgy brand with appeal to "badass" consumers — or health-conscious men — not a typical target of its alt-milk peers.
"For Golden Wing, we're looking to shake up the plant-based milk category with a bit of a bolder, edgier tone and target: consumers who care enough about their bodies to know their food preferences, and are badass enough to drink whatever they want," Schmidt said in an email. "Our target is designed to appeal to a subset across genders; however, when compared to competitive products in the category today, we are targeting men more aggressively than other brands have done to date."
This positioning is supported by a package design that's a clear departure from the pastoral farm imagery marking many alternative-milk brands. Golden Wing's design instead draws from motorcycle culture and Molson Coors' beer heritage. The black-and-gold bottle features barley leaves, a hawk, feathers and wings that reference the "high elevation barley" grown in the Rockies used in its creation.
"We want to invoke curiosity in consumers when they see our packaging and our bold voice, and ultimately get them to try our great-tasting product," Schmidt said. "Longer-term, we want Golden Wing to unlock barley milk as the next big thing in the plant-based milk category, and we believe it can do just that."
Take Two's approach to barley milk is based on eco-friendly benefits as an "upcycled" food, Holly Feather, head of marketing, said in an interview. Feather, who arrived at the company in 2021 after brand marketing stints with Philips, SC Johnson and Kimberly-Clark, said a major element of her plan to market Take Two was based on educating consumers not just about the unfamiliar product, but the idea of food made of byproducts of other foods.
"Your biggest challenges as a marketer are to change someone's behavior, and to teach them something new — and we had to do both," she said. "That was a bit of an exceptional challenge."
Partnerships with advocacy groups like the Upcycled Food Association have done a good job of raising awareness of upcycled benefits, as has the brand's work with a specialty PR agency called Trent & Co. AB InBev produces about 8 billion pounds of spent barley every year, Feather said, "and all that's been removed is the sugar and starch. All this wonderful protein and fiber is still there." The brewer moves much of that to commercial farms; Take Two grew out of attempts by its founders to find other uses for it, including protein powders and supplements, and a protein shake that became the base recipe for the milk.
The brand is active on social channels "just being ourselves and talking to people like us," Feather said, with a message that "saving the planet doesn't have to be so serious. You can have a good time and do something good in the mix."
Sampling programs at retail stores and in coffee shops — including some cafes in the Pacific Northwest where Take Two will buy a latte for consumers who have theirs with barley milk — have been especially effective, Feather said. And in a truly circular promotion, a well-regarded restaurant in Portland known as Eem is now serving a specialty cocktail made with Take Two's barley milk, returning the ingredient to the alcohol business for which it was born.
These programs sparked a tenfold sales increase this March vs. last March, Feather said. She declined to share specific sales figures.
Feather said consumer taste panels run by the brand indicate barley milk as having a very similar taste to cow's milk, with the most notable difference being a golden hue unique to barley milk. "You can probably also taste a little bit of a cereal note with barley milk," she said, "which makes it nice with cereal, obviously."