Molson Coors is rolling out a new product: Coors Light Iced T. The drink is a standard Coors laced with citrus and iced-tea flavors, all with a relatively meek alcohol level of 4 percent. "We've got the world's most refreshing alcoholic beer sort of meeting up with the most refreshing non-alcoholic drink in the world. Those two things go really well together," says Peter Swinburn, the chief executive of the company. Plenty of beer purists, of course, are less excited. Here's what you should know:
Why is Coors mixing beer with iced tea?
It's part of a broader plan to win back customers who are increasingly drinking wine, cocktails, and flavored alcohols. "Someone else is eating our lunch in the alcohol space," says Swinburn. Beer sales in the U.S. have declined three years in a row, while liquor companies hocking unusual concoctions like Smirnoff Fluffed Marshmallow Flavored Vodka and Southern Comfort Fiery Pepper have gotten a boost. Consumers are also increasingly buying craft beers, sales of which were up 15 percent in the first six months of 2011, putting pressure on Coors and other beer giants to come up with a new strategy.
Are other beer companies following suit?
Yes. Anheuser-Busch, the maker of Budweiser, is unveiling Michelob Ultra 19th Hole Light Tea and Lemonade in April. Both Anheuser-Busch and Molson Coors appear to be following Boston Beer, the owner of Samuel Adams, whose Twisted Tea brand has been a great success. Boston Beer plans to sell its Angry Orchard Cider brand nationwide in 2012.
Will Coors Light Iced T be a hit?
Beer purists may find it an "absurdi-tea," says Rick Aristotle Munarriz at The Motley Fool. But it's at least an "intriguing" move, since "specialty flavored brews are booming in popularity." But the "beer industry's track record has been mixed when it branches out," says Mike Esteri at The Wall Street Journal. Remember Zima?