Make Beer, Not War

A-B exec calls for unified industry strategy to boost market share

Published in CSP Daily News

ST. LOUIS -- We don't really have the image we would like to have, Bob Lachky, executive vice president of Anheuser-Busch's global industry development unit, said Thursday in a blunt presentation before members of the trade media.

In what would best be described as a call to arms against the rapidly growing spirits and wine segments, Lachky detailed a campaign spearheaded by A-B that seeks to unite beer manufacturers and its trade association, The Beer Institute.

Lachky outlined a four-prong consumer campaign that would center [image-nocss] on the following:

Social Value of Beer: Marketing would underscore how beer brings people together, boasts a broad demographic appeal and is appropriate for virtually any use occasions. Romance the Product: Like wine, the beer industry must play up the lure of beerglassware, aroma, color and flavor. Lachky also indicated that A-B and others were looking to copy the wine industry's success in pairing wines for appropriate meals. Permission to View Beer Differently: On this, Lachky said The Beer Institute would be the primary driver to promote beer for multiple uses. Innovative packaging, tapping beer as a mixer and developing special glasses for beer varietals, highlighted the litany of opportunities to expand beer's image. Health Benefits: Moderate alcoholic consumption has been shown to reduce cardiovascular disease in most people. Also, beer is natural and the alcoholic content is not excessive.

Though wine and spirits have steadily grown market share in recent years and have successfully invaded turf previously controlled by beer, Lachky stressed that beer remains the alcoholic drink of choice, controlling more than 50% of the total alcoholic market.

We need to continue to remind people that beer is dominant, he said, noting later that while beer manufacturers will continue to engage in brand battles, they must work in consort to boost beer's broader appeal. Remember, the enemy is hard liquor and wine.

Earlier this week, Lachky told the Associated Press that he has spoken with executives of A-B's company's major competitors, including Miller Brewing Co., to discuss the plan. He said the biggest concern among rivals is cost, noting that television marketing could run in the millions.

Miller Brewing spokesperson Pete Marino told AP that the brewer is supportive of efforts to promote beer overall, but the company will keep its focus on advertising its own brand. Beer is a brand-driven business, and it needs to remain that way," Marino said, adding that Miller does not need to increase beer consumption to boost its sales.