Canada's Bud Light Apple Could Get U.S. Test


September 22, 2015
Dear Client:

A-B is jumping on the apple wagon. We'd seen some labels for "Best Damn Apple Ale" and read that A-B had purchased the domain name BBD has since confirmed that Best Damn Apple Ale is a new product they'll pilot in a few states this fall, with further product details to be announced in the coming weeks.

Additionally, BBD received confirmation that Bud Light Apple, which is currently available in Canada, is under evaluation for a limited U.S. pilot later this year.

A-B VP innovation Val Toothman commented on their foray into the flavor.

"As part of our commitment to innovation, we continually develop and test new products," Val said. "With the first day of fall just days away, seasonal flavors like apple are top-of-mind for consumers and brewers alike. Our company is already tapping into this trend with products in our portfolio like Stella Artois Cidre, Bud Light Lime Apple-ahh-Rita, Shock Top Honeycrisp Apple Wheat and Johnny Appleseed. In parallel, our innovation team is working closely with consumers to understand where there is incremental opportunity for A-B and its partners to respond to growing consumer interest in sweeter beers."


A-B has a busy plate these days with their pursuit of SABMiller, their attempted vertical integration of CA, and buying craft brewers. But another issue is causing widespread dissension in the ranks of the red network and by implication, craft brewers, is A-B's efforts to force a lowering of what A-B distributors pay their sales force selling other brands.

As you recall, A-B announced they would be doing assessments of wholesalers. The Wholesaler Equity Assessment round one was a test effort this spring. Round two is now underway and is much more extensive with rhetorical warnings that you are either in compliance or not -- not much middle ground. These more extensive investigations seem to focus even more on A-B distributors that sells crafts or imports. They seem VERY interested in your companion brand portfolio.

BBD has secured documentation and other sources of A-B's efforts on this: A 251 page assessment playbook of what A-B field staff is to look for when they audit their wholesalers.

The brewery assessments are currently underway but one of the main points of contention that has developed is A-B's purposeful failing of distributor assessments if they pay a flat commission percentage of dollar sales. Distributors are balking at this. A-B's rationale? A flat commission on Bud sales would be lower than the same commission on same amount of cases of Fat Tire or Dogfish Head. A-B's solution is to redo distributor sales incentives to find a system that recognizes and rewards selling the lower priced A-B portfolio more than the higher price products of A-B's competitors.

If you are not in alignment, you theoretically are in violation of the equity agreement and subject to section 5 termination. Heavy stuff.

They are making distributors repaint trucks to A-B brands and taking away from competing brands (p66); making sure the warehouse floor space has plenty of A-B product (p8), preventing incentives for sales personnel to be higher for non A-B brands (p126), or having A-B blood crossed with non A-B brands (p125). These provisions have worried A-B distributors to the point where they are calling each other wondering if they are being singled out.

Competing brewers have told BBD that they would not like their incentives or compensation of distributor sales force shared with A-B. With the CA AG and DOJ active on other issues, this looks like another thing for them to consider as it is consistent with the narrative from wholesalers that A-B is increasingly being insistent on chasing away non-A-B brands from their independent distributors. For example, there are rumors that A-B will insist upon partial exclusivity on any future acquisitions.


Heineken will continue its 17-year partnership with the Bond franchise for its latest film, Spectre, with a campaign representing the brand's largest global marketing platform of the year. Brand managers tell BBD that the program is expected to reach nearly 20% more consumers than the previous campaign, has tons of on-premise touchpoints planned, and should boost brand Heineken.
As part of its integrated global Spectre campaign, Heineken has unveiled a new TV spot, "The Chase," featuring Daniel Craig as James Bond in a high-speed boat chase. The national TV spot which will go into heavy rotation through mid-December.
The brand also announced a digital campaign featuring "the world's first ever selfie from space, dubbed the 'Spyfie.'" They've partnered with Urthecast to take ultra HD imagery using its camera on the Deimos satellite, currently in orbit 372 miles above the Earth's surface.

(Via a relay of technology, Heineken will create a selfie for lucky attendees, recruited from around the world, at the brand†s exclusive Spectre screening events happening in secret locations globally in early November.)

The Heineken spot will be launched mobile-first via Facebook, and shown on TV and cinema screens worldwide 24 hours later. Heineken is reportedly the only Spectre partner who has created a television commercial starring Daniel Craig.

At the outset of the September-scheduled campaign launch, the Heineken portfolio is up 1.3% in the last four weeks, according to Nielsen.

Promo also includes on-pack and in-store rebates and instant coupons redeemable with the purchase of movie night essentials (popcorn, salty snacks, etc). There's also an on-premise program which allows participating accounts to drive sales through a Fandango reward program, where guests
can earn movie tickets through digital redemption.

Check out the new spot here.


Bell's will hit its 23rd state of distribution in November with a mixed bag of 12 (mostly A-B distributors) across Tennessee.
Bell's will work with Central Distributors, Clark Distributing, Volunteer Distributing, Budweiser of Chattanooga, Budweiser of Clarksville, Budweiser of Cookeville, BountyBev (independent, craft-centric), Holston Distributing, Eagle Distributing Company-Memphis, Eagle Distributing Company-Knoxville, Mid-South Distributing (local MillerCoors powerhouse) and Tarver Distributing Co.

"We are extremely excited to work with each and every one of our new distributor partners. With their help, we will be able to continue the level of customer service our fans expect in Tennessee," said Bell's Vice President Laura Bell. The company announced in June that it had begun the search for distributors in the state.


THIS CANDID 6-MINUTE SHORT ON DICK YUENGLING'S interaction with his successors -- his daughters -- shows how the two camps approach the business differently and offers some interesting implications for the future (and some throwback pictures of Dick looking a bit like David Hasselhoff).

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Until tomorrow, Harry

"I don't know anything about music. In my line you don't have to."
- Elvis Presley

Don't forget to register for Beer Summit 2016 in New Orleans January 25-26 at The Roosevelt hotel. Lineup will be announced later this month. Tickets go quickly, so reserve your spot today:

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