Budget Beer Boost

High Life, Natural Light see sales uptick

CHICAGO -- As the economy continues to spiral downward, more and more beer drinkers are trading down, reported AdAge.com. Both Information Resources Inc. (IRI) and Nielsen data show that the entire subpremium segment has been attracting more of consumers' beer money.

Sales of Miller High Life rose 6.5% during the four weeks ended October 7, according to the report, citing IRI. Another MillerCoors bottom-shelf brand, Keystone, grew 11.2% during the same period. The two largest below-premium beer brands, Anheuser-Busch's Busch and Natural Light, have also seen upticks in sales.[image-nocss]

Those sales appear to be coming at the expense of more-expensive, higher-margin beers such as Budweiser and Miller Genuine Draft.

"I'm selling way more economy brands than I'm comfortable with," a MillerCoors wholesaler, who said he had seen big gains not only for High Life and Keystone, but even for brands such as Milwaukee's Best and Hamm's, told Ad Age. "Consumers are trading down."

But if the brewers and their sales forces have to deal with trading down, they would prefer consumers trade down into their brands, said the report.

The "Taking Back the High Life" campaign begun by Miller last year seems to have put that brand in a prime position to take advantage of the trend that has materialized since then, Ad Age said. The spots feature a burly, sassy beer-truck driver who reclaims the blue-collar beer from French bistros and gourmet groceries. The populism of the spotsconfiscating the beer from Wall Street types who don't deserve itseems ripped from the campaign trail these days. In fact, the beer-truck driver has been staging his own campaign this fall, stumping at sporting events and bars nationwide in a mock-political effort for the "Common Sense Party," complete with its own campaign buttons.