As we did with the spirit and wine Growth Brand Awards, Cheers has added a new category to honor beer brands that have shown sustained growth. The Beer Hall of Fame recognizes brands that have won at least 10 Growth Brand Awards since the program’s inception in 1997.
Our inaugural class of inductees includes nine beers that have managed to keep growing through quality products, innovation and strong brand stories that resonate with consumers. It doesn’t hurt that the craft beer mania has boosted interest in different styles of beer from regional brews to imports.
Here’s a closer look at this year’s Beer Hall of Famers—congratulations to all of the brands!
10 Growth Brand Awards
2014 Cases sold: 29.1 million
Blue Moon has risen a long way from its ballpark origins. The Belgian-style witbier was first created in 1995 by brewer Keith Villa at the Sandlot Brewery. Owned by parent company MillerCoors, Sandlot Brewery is part of Coors Field, the home park of Major League Baseball’s Colorado Rockies.
“There are countless factors and trends that have contributed to Blue Moon’s 79 consecutive quarters of growth,” says Mark Rasmussen, brand PR manager for Tenth and Blake, the MillerCoors unit that produces Blue Moon. “In the beginning, Blue Moon’s brewmaster and his team were extremely focused on building the brand the right way, market by market, before scaling the brand.”
The steady growth of the modern craft beer craze since the 1990s has also benefitted Blue Moon. When the brand first debuted, most Americans were not used to seeing cloudy, Belgian-style beers; the orange slice garnish was also a unique touch.
“Since then, Blue Moon helped usher in a renaissance of craft beer by introducing American drinkers to new flavors and styles of beer,” Rasmussen says.
The brand still emphasizes its craft origins. “Blue Moon’s ‘Artfully Crafted’ campaign has been a large growth driver for the brand,” Rasmussen says. “It reinforces that Blue Moon is all about a creative approach to brewing.”
12 Growth Brand Awards
2014 Cases sold: 107.7 million
The most popular imported beer in the U.S. comes from the largest brewery in Mexico. Grupo Modelo first launched its Corona pale lager brand in 1925.
Corona became the go-to beer for Mexicans. American consumers caught on after the product was launched in the U.S. in 1981. The brand became so popular that supplies would sell out, and drinkers were forced to buy it on the black market.
The brand has increased its production abilities in the years since, so that everyone who wants to can enjoy Corona legally. “A new can line installed at our Nava Brewery in Mexico produces 4,000 cans a minute, allowing us to meet the needs of the market, ramp up supply and service this business as it continues to grow,” says Bill Hackett, president of Constellation Brands’ beer division.
Holidays were also sales days worth celebrating for Corona Extra this past year, Hackett says. The brand was the top share gainer on Cinco de Mayo and the fourth highest on both Memorial Day and the Fourth of July 4th.
12 Growth Brand Awards
2014 Cases sold: 14.3 million
First introduced in the U.S. in 1989, Corona Light is now the top-selling imported light beer in America. A number of factors have contributed to the brand’s success, says Jim Sabia, chief marketing officer of Crown Imports, a unit of Constellation Brands and the exclusive U.S. importer of Corona.
These initiatives include new packaging and bottle designs to help draw more attention to Corona Light’s slim cans on the retail shelf, and a campaign targeted towards Millennials and Gen-Xers that touts the product’s pronounced flavor despite its low calories.
The company began testing Corona Light on draft in 2012 and rolled the program out nationally in 2014.
Corona Light will also continue its successful partnership with Kenny Chesney. The brand is sponsoring the country music singer’s Big Revival Tour that kicked off in March.
“Kenny Chesney is one of the biggest music stars in North America, and our target consumers are a great fit with Kenny’s core fan base,” Sabia says. “We’ve worked with Kenny for six years now, and it’s been a great partnership.”
12 Growth Brand Awards
2014 Cases sold: 6.6 million
Like a number of Mexican beers, Pacifico was created in the country by German immigrants. Three, to be precise, who opened the brewery Cerveceria del Pacífico in the port city of Mazatlán in 1900.
The beer takes its name from the ocean on which Mazatlán sits: the Pacific. The brand was acquired by Mexico brewery Grupo Modelo in 1954.
Marketing for the brand in the U.S. remains primarily on the West Coast. But Pacifico is ramping up efforts in other markets such as Denver and Miami, according to Jim Sabia, chief marketing officer of the Crown Imports division of Constellation Brands. “For 2015, our marketing strategy continues to be focused on driving awareness and trial with consumers who have never tried Pacifico,” Sabia says.
These marketing strategies include a continued sponsorship of the World Surfing League and the U.S. Open of Surfing, as well as the U.S. Open of Snowboarding.
A national digital campaign will “build on the momentum gained last year and allow us to reach consumers in a very targeted, cost-effective way,” Sabia says.
Pacifico will also expand a TV advertising campaign to test its 2014 TV spots in new markets, with an eye towards a national advertising campaign in 2016. The markets may change, but Pacifico will continue to go after the same group of drinkers.
“Our target consumers for Pacifico are what we call ‘Fearless Leaders’,” Sabia explains. “These consumers have a passion for adventure and outdoor activities, and they share these adventures on social media.”
16 Growth Brand Awards
2014 Cases sold: 26 Million
The history of Dos Equis dates back to 1897. The beer was first brewed in Veracruz, Mexico, by the German-born brewer Mexican Wilhelm Hasse. To commemorate the upcoming turn of the century, the brand originally was named “Siglo XX,” or “20th century.” The cans were marked with the double-X Roman numeral symbol for 20, and took on the name “Dos Equis,” or “two X’s.”
This light pale lager is today sold in green bottles and has achieved double-digit growth for 11 consecutive years. The popularity of beers from Mexico has helped Dos Equis grow and positions it for future success.
“Growth of Mexican imports is attributed to two key factors,” explains Ryan Thompson, brand director for Dos Equis at parent company Heineken USA, “the growth of the multicultural, and specifically Hispanic American consumer base, and impactful marketing campaigns like the Dos Equis ‘Most Interesting Man’ that connects with and engages consumers at multiple touch points.”
According to the Dos Equis TV ads, there’s little that “The Most Interesting Man in the World” cannot do. His talents are legion—and this includes continuing to appeal to consumers. The Most Interesting Man was recently named one of the top campaigns of the 21st century by Advertising Age.
Dos Equis has evolved the campaign to engage fans with exclusive online content and through social media. The brand has reached more than 3 million fans on Facebook, while also developing strong presences on YouTube and Twitter.
“In addition, aspirational and experiential programing including Dos Equis Dos de Mayo, Dos Equis Luna Rising and Dos Equis Masquerade engage and connect emotionally with consumers at multiple touch points along the path to purchase,” Thompson says.
Dos Equis plans to continue the brand’s momentum by branching out with new offerings targeting an evolving consumer base. These products include the Dos-A-Rita lager Margarita beverage and the Beers of Mexico and Dos Equis Exploration variety packs.
“These variety packs appeal to today’s Millennial and multicultural consumers who are eager to experiment and seek out new styles, experiences and expanded flavor profiles,” Thompson says.
12 Growth Brand Awards
2014 Cases sold: 6.3 million
Like all the Hall of Famers, Yuengling Lager benefits from its history. Many customers know it as the oldest American-owned brewery, and one that has stayed in the same family for many generations.
“Along with the quality of our products, we believe this message resonates with consumers,” and helps the brand sustain growth, says Jennifer Yuengling, sixth generation in the family that operates the Pottsville, PA-based company.
Established in 1829, D.G. Yeungling & Sons has grown to become one of the largest American-owned breweries in the country. The company operates three facilities: one in Florida and two in Pennsylvania.
Yuengling added the second and third facilities between 1999 and 2000, when customer demand greatly outstripped the brewing output. The flagship product is so popular in Pennsylvania and the Delaware Valley that it can be ordered just be asking for a lager.
“We view our lager brand as a staple within the premium domestic beer category,” Yuengling says. “With the influx of so many new craft beers and the increased popularity of differing styles, Yuengling Lager sets the tone for a ‘go-to’ sessionable beer.”
The brand has added twists on its traditional lager over the years, especially since craft beer has caught on with consumers. These new brews include the brand’s classic Porter and Black & Tan beers, and, more recently, the Bock, Octoberfest and Summer Wheat. Yuengling Light Lager launched in 2001.
“Lager’s relevance will continue to be attributed to its consistent quality and the loyalty of our consumers,” Yuengling says. “It is an iconic brand that is surrounded by lagers and ales within our strong portfolio of products that appeals to a wide range of demographics.”
11 Growth Brand Awards
2014 Cases sold: 6.9 million
Shiner Bock was initially considered a “Lenten” beer, in that the American dark lager was brewed around the time of Lent when it launched in 1913. The Spoetzl Brewery of Shiner, TX, began to produce its now-flagship beer year-round just a few decades ago.
As part of the 11 Growth Brand Awards it won to qualify for our Hall of Fame, Shiner Bock this year won an Established Growth Brand Award. This means the brand has attained steady growth during the past four years. Charlie Paulette, chief marketing officer of Shiner Beers, credits this success in part to the brand fitting well within the craft movement.
“The craft beer ‘boom’ is continuing because drinkers value quality, authenticity and innovation,” Paulette says “We’ve been hand-crafting beer for over a century, and we still make every drop of our beer in the little town of Shiner. A lot of things have changed, like bottling technology or packaging, but the beer hasn’t changed a whole lot. Our fans appreciate that.”
Although remaining true to its roots, the brand has also innovated with new flavors and styles to meet the diverse palates of modern drinkers. These brews include Bohemian Black Lager, a schwarzbier; Ruby Redbird, a golden lager brewed with Texas grapefruit and a hint of ginger; and White Wing, a Belgian white ale. Spoetzl Brewery has also released seasonals, Birthday Beer anniversary issues and Brewer’s Pride series, along with styles of pale ale, rauchbier, chocolate stout, farmhouse ale, alt bier and others.
This strategy of staying fresh without losing track of Shiner’s past has served the brand well. “Our overall brand strategy is to stay true to the brand,” Paulette says. “That seems cliché, but it’s true. And important.”
For instance, the brand’s packaging has definitely evolved during the past 102 years, he notes. “But even when we update things, they maintain a look and feel that is authentically and familiarly Shiner.”
The brand stays relevant by understanding current and potential Shiner drinkers, Paulette says. “We’ll keep making the beer our fans expect, and some they might not expect but will appreciate. We challenge ourselves to make interesting new beers but always stay true to our history and heritage.”
13 Growth Brand Awards
2014 Cases sold: 22.8 million
Production of Stella Artois-style beer dates back to 1366 in Leuven, Belgium. But the brand took a little while to evolve into what is sold today.
Sébastien Artois became the new head brewer of the Den Hoorn brewery in Leuven in 1708, and nine years later gave his name to the business. The other half of this brand’s name came about 218 years later, when Stella Artois was launched in Canada as a festive beer named after the Christmas star.
Stella Artois remains a popular brand sold worldwide by evolving with modern consumers while also keeping an eye towards the past. “Today, our consumer is more frequently looking to enjoy authentic, high-end beer brands,” says Ricardo Marques, Vice President, Stella Artois.
“This is a trend that is here to stay and that favors Stella Artois, the number-one Belgian beer brand in the world that boasts 600 years of brewing heritage, a unique chalice glass that elevates the moment, and a detailed, nine-step pouring ritual.”
Stella Artois has benefitted from modern marketing as well. The brand launched the “Host Beautifully” campaign this past May to “inspire the next generation of hosts to reinstate the ritual, art and level of intent to entertaining guests,” Marques says.
“To bring the campaign to life, we partnered with singer John Legend to host our launch event in southern California, where he treated guests to an intimate musical performance,” he says. Legend and 20-plus “field experts and influencers” also crafted hosting tips for each letter of the alphabet, as part of ‘The A-Z Guide to Host Beautifully,’ available online at HostBeautifully.com.
“Host Beautifully kicked off with great success: Since the launch of the program this summer, we’ve sold more than 1.2 million cases of Stella Artois,” Marques says.
Earlier this year Stella Artois kicked off “Buy a Lady a Drink,” in partnership with Water.org, the brand’s first global social responsibility campaign. To date, the program has sold over 60,000 limited-edition chalices, the proceeds of which provide funding for clean drinking water for people in developing countries.
19 Growth Brand Awards
2014 Cases sold: 59.9 million
Modelo Especial is the second-highest selling imported beer in America. It was first brewed in 1925 as the innaugural beer released by Mexico’s Grupo Modelo brewery.
With more than 60 million cases sold in 2014, Modelo Especial claimed a 15.5% share of the imported beer category, doubling its market share in just five years, according to Jim Sabia, chief marketing officer of Crown Imports, part of Constellation Brands.
Modelo Especial has grown by double-digits for 29 of the past 32 years, gaining tremendous momentum.
This is helped in part by the continued growth of America’s Hispanic population. Expected to increase by 15 million from 2012 to 2025, this is the fastest-growing portion of the U.S. population, and will continue to affect sales within the U.S. beer market.
“While 60% of the Modelo Especial brand’s volume is driven by Hispanic consumers, the 2015 marketing campaign is driving product trial with new consumers. It features national general market and Hispanic market advertising, partnerships with popular professional soccer athletes, and a broadcast sponsorship of the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup on Univision,” Sabia says.
To that end, Modelo successfully sought a national draft mandate at Buffalo Wild Wings, meaning that the brand would be on tap at the casual restaurant chain’s locations. Modelo also formed a partnership with Clint Dempsey, the U.S. men’s national soccer team captain and Seattle Sounders FC player.
This overall marketing push represents the largest of such investment in Modelo’s history. The brand also launched Miledo Chileda in 2013, an authentic “cerveza preparada,” or beer mixed with tomato juice, hot sauce, or salsa. This new brew contains the former, along with salt and pepper.
As for Modelo Especial, the new advertising campaigns includes “Discover the Authentic Story of Modelo Especial,” which educates consumers about the history of Modelo Especial’s growth “from the bodegas in Mexico to its current popularity in the United States,” Sabia says. “By telling our story to a larger customer base, we believe this brand can eventually exceed 100 million cases and become a top-five beer brand in the U.S.”