The Return of Malternatives?

Category seeing recent uptick in sales

CHICAGO -- Malternatives never did come close to the boast that the sweet-tasting beverages someday could outsell beer, but the category never went away either. These drinksnow called progressive adult beverages at least by category leader Diageomight be just 5.5% of all malt beverage sales tracked by Information Resources Inc., but dollar sales for the six months ended September 10 grew 3.7% compared with beer's 2.4% increase.

That trend may be reason enough for Coors Brewing to relaunch Zima for a third time as Diageo tests Smirnoff Sourcea malt beverage [image-nocss] with pure spring water, reported Brandweek.

Zima will field a reformulation that dials down carbonation and alcohol by volume to 5% while adding electrolytes. The current offering, Zima XXX, bowed during 2004 packing 5.9% alcohol by volume (ABV) and a masculine positioning with flavors like Hard Orange and Hard Lemon Lime, according to the report.

New Zima rolls into stores by next April with citrus, pineapple citrus and tangerine flavors in twist-cap glass bottles. The relaunched look could include bright fruit and sunburst colors on packaging, Brandweek said, and It's electro-liscious is a possible tagline. Out-of-home, web and other coupons will support Zima's drinkable refreshment angle.

Smirnoff Source is testing in clear, glass bottles at Dallas nightclubs and convenience stores through December. The lightly carbonated drink carries 3.5% ABV and comes in Pure Berry, Pure Citrus and Pure Orange flavors. Smirnoff Source is positioned as a premium beverage at $2.49 a bottle and is aimed at providing refreshment during a night out for moments when the consumer is in the mood for something lighter than beer or a cocktail, said Erik Amalfitano, Diageo's commercial innovation manager.

While many malternative entries have come and gone since the me-too malternative craze between 2001 and 2004, Diageo has managed to keep its turf in the retail stores by regularly rotating and introducing new flavors and brands, among the latest being Smirnoff Twisted V Wild Grape, Smirnoff Raw Tea and Captain Morgan Parrot Bay, said the report.

Suppliers have to keep coming out with something new for consumers who are constantly looking for variety, John Clevenger, managing director of Meridian Consulting, Westport, Conn., told Brandweek. Even if you introduced something innovative six months ago, the consumer is still looking for what is new and where does the category go to next.

Diageo also is testing in Florida ready-to-drink (RTD) beveragesCaptain Morgan and Cola, Smirnoff and Lemon Lime, Seagram 7 and Lemon Lime and George Dickel and Colain 12-oz. cans retailing in c-stores for $1.99.

It's a success story, said Amalfitano. It's a great way to track in a spirit-drinking occasion through beer packaging.

He added that the drinks open new concession opportunities at stadium and concert venues and doubts the RTD productswhich will not be distributed in bar and restaurant accountswould cannibalize Diageo's bottle business, which caters to different drinking occasions. The test markets conclude during December and expanding distribution will depend on state laws that stipulate where and who can sell spirits, said the report.

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