Orange is the color of money for Blue Moon beer, reports Joseph T. Hallianan in The Wall Street Journal (11/20/06). Or make that oranges. Keith Villa of Molson Coors came up with the idea to merchandise Blue Moon — a Belgian-style wheat beer — as the one beer to have with a slice of orange. That worked. “When people saw a beer with an orange slice on it, it piqued their interest,” says Jim Doney of Chicago Beverage Systems. Once that idea caught on in bars, Monarch Beverages carried it through in stores: “Wherever there’s an orange, there ought to be a stack of Blue Moon,” says Jim Zerons of Monarch Beverages. That worked, too.
“Last month alone, his distributorship sold 16,500 cases of Blue Moon … and Blue Moon is now his third-largest-selling draft beer, behind Miller Lite and Coors Lite.” But while consumers now know that Blue Moon is to be garnished by oranges, few know that it is manufactured by Molson Coors. It looks like a craft beer, and Molson Coors has carefully cultivated that impression by “playing down the beer’s connection to its corporate parent; avoiding TV ads; using distributors who know how to sell smaller brands; and targeting key markets and accounts.” The only agency involved is Omnicom’s Integer Group, which creates point-of-sale materials.
The result is, Blue Moon is expected to “sell between 400,000 and 500,000 barrels … this year,” making it “the third- or fourth-largest craft brewer in the U.S., behind … Boston Beer … Sierra Nevada Brewing … and New Belgium Brewing.” And although it is made by Molson Coors, its production level, at “fewer than two million barrels of beer a year” technically qualifies it as a “craft beer.” Molson Coors’s accomplishment is one that both Anheuser Busch and Miller would like to replicate — in fact, Miller has introduced Leinenkugel Sunset Wheat beer, which, “for all practical purposes is a clone of Blue Moon.” They may have a long road ahead: “Blue Moon’s success … has been a slow process, taking more than a decade” to earn “respect.” Plus, by most accounts, the beer tastes really good. ~ Tim Manners, editor