Molson CoorsBeverage Co. announced on Friday to stop production of its newly introduced light craft lager Saint Archer Gold, which began rolling out nationwide earlier this year. The “incredibly tough decision to hibernate Saint Archer Gold” was precipitated by vast disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which “caused an immediate loss of momentum for the brand, due in large part to not being able to execute critical brand activations and trial-driving programs that were at the heart of our launch plan,” Chief Marketing Officer Michelle St. Jacques.
Although “early results of the launch were positive” and the brand “has a strong provenance, a fantastic liquid, stand-out packaging and was launched with enthusiastic support” from distributors, retailers and drinkers, the coronavirus upended its launch plans.
The inability to administer a nationwide sampling program in grocery and liquor stores and the near evaporation of the on-premise – a critical channel for brand building and introducing drinkers to new products – precipitated by mandated shutdowns in response to the pandemic, combined to complicate and undermine the brand’s launch.
Saint Archer Gold was launched nationally on Jan. 1, 2020 as a direct response to the incredible success ofMichelob Ultra, which Anheuser Busch debuted in 2002 and has taken the U.S. beer market by storm. Michelob Ultrais currently the fastest growing beer brand in the United States by shareand has displaced Miller Lite from third to fourth place. Bud Light and Coors Light still range first and second (inside.beer, 9.8.2019).
The product and the packaging of Saint Archer Gold which mirrors MichelobUltra's slim cans were tested before over six months in several markets. As could be seen the brand still had connotations of professional surfers, skateboarders and snowboarders that founded Saint Archer Brewing in San Diego in 2013. The brewery itself was acquired by MillerCoors in late 2015.
“We have an incredible proposition with this brand, and the enthusiasm for it from retailers, distributors and consumers once they tasted it was truly remarkable,” said Brad Nadal, president of Saint Archer Brewing. “This was a matter of drinkers not having the ability to go taste Saint Archer Gold at the ballpark, or at a concert or our ability to connect with them in store aisles and have a conversation. When you don’t have those levers to get consumers to try your product, you’re stuck in an unfortunate position.”
Despite the decision to hibernate Saint Archer Gold, St. Jacques said “this decision is in no way a reflection of the team at Saint Archer Brewing Company, their talents or their dedication to brewing high-quality beers. In a demanding marketplace, they continue to brew great beers like Hazy IPA, Tropical IPA and the popular 50/50 multipack franchise. And we’re looking forward to what’s next from our great San Diego craft partners."
Excluding Saint Archer Gold, Saint Archer as a whole is up 15.7% in case volume year-to-date, according to Nielsen all-outlet and convenience data through June 27. Its 50/50 pack is leading the way with Hazy IPA close behind. Saint Archer Tropical IPA, meanwhile, ranks as the No. 1 fruited IPA released in California over the past 52 weeks, Nielsen data show.
Molson Coors has committed to continue Saint Archer’s Seek Gold program, a grant-style initiative to support the next generation of Black athletes, particularly in lifestyle sports like surfing, skating, volleyball and more. Through the Seek Gold program, the brand will provide emerging Black athletes with a total of $100,000 in 2020 to support their paths to success.
“While we’re sad about hibernating Saint Archer Gold, we’re still full believers in the brand, and we hope to bring it back with full force when the time is right,” Nadal said. “But for now, we’re really excited about the acceleration of our craft portfolio and are concentrated on driving our mission, and that’s to be the most-desired California craft. The future is nice and bright.”
The decision to stop the national roll out of Saint Archer Gold comes at a time when Molson Coors decided to accelerate its investment behind a slate of new brands – including Blue Moon LightSky, Vizzy and the forthcoming Coors Seltzer. On Friday, the company announced to make a substantial multimillion-dollar investments in its Fort Worth brewery to quintuple its U.S. capacity for hard seltzers and other related beverages (inside.beer, 10.07.2020).