Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, recognizing that the craft beer marketplace was becoming increasingly crowded with an onslaught of new brands, created a solution to help guarantee shelf space and alleviate its distributors’ workload while still offering consumers a variety of innovative products.
Sierra pulled off this neat trick by categorizing its specialty and seasonal offerings into what the company is calling “brand families” alongside its main product lines. In doing so, the company simplified the sell-in process for many of its brands.
“Everyone is focused on brewing innovative new beers, but we as craft brewers need to make it easier for customers to understand our new offerings and easier for our retail partners to sell them,” said Joe Whitney, Sierra’s director of sales and marketing.
Under the new system, “if you’re a retailer, all you have to do is set up one UPC code and you get the variety of selling multiple brands,” Whitney said. “The distributor and the retailer jobs get easier and the odds of each beer showing up where a drinker can find it are also higher.”
While Sierra’s core seasonals like Celebration, Ruthless Rye, Summerfest and Tumbler are still sold in a variety of different packages under what the company calls its “mainline seasonal” brand family, higher ABV offerings like Bigfoot, Hoptimum and the recently-introduced Narwhal Imperial Stout were placed into the “High Altitude” brand family and sold exclusively in 4-packs all labeled with the same UPC barcode. Sierra made the same move with its Ovila series, a collaborative project with a nearby monastery, the Abbey of New Clairvaux in Vina, Calif. that includes two offerings released at separate times during the year.
By categorizing its specialty beers into brand families, Whitney said Sierra Nevada was able to sell-in product more effectively which ultimately helped contribute to overall sales depletion growth of 12.5 percent in 2012, to nearly 1 million barrels. The brewery sold 857,000 barrels of beer in 2011 according to Brewers Association records.