Allagash Brewing is planning to roll out several years of innovations over the next three months, founder Rob Tod announced Wednesday.
“We’re taking what was initially going to be a two- to three- to four-year effort and strategy and we’re going to compress it into three months,” Tod explained. “It’s going to be a lift, a lot of work and effort on our part, and we’re going to need our wholesaler partners, who have been great partners for the last 25 years, to execute on this. We’ve got a tremendous amount of optimism that we are gonna really see a lot of success and be able to deliver on everything you’re about to see, in a very short three month period.”
The Portland, Maine-headquartered craft brewery, the 28th largest by volume in the nation according to not-for-profit trade group the Brewers Association, is heavily skewed toward on-premise sales, with about 70% of its volume flowing through bars and restaurants, Tod said. The COVID-19 pandemic forced virtually this entire on-premise channel to close nationwide, which added urgency to the company’s innovation push, not only for new products but for new package formats as well.
Allagash’s plan is to launch two new core year-round products, including a line of low-calorie, low-alcohol “sparkling session ales” made with fruit called Little Grove and a new stout called North Sky. The company will also release its flagship Allagash White for the first time in 6-packs of 12 oz. bottles.
On the innovation front, “Little Grove by Allagash” will come in two iterations — peach and kombucha and blackcurrants — and will be sold in 6-packs of 12 oz. cans with a suggested retail price of $12.99. Both offerings check in at under 4% ABV, 3.6% and 3.8% ABV, respectively, with 100-calories per can.
“There is a big market out there right now for lower alcohol, lower calorie fruited beverages, and we think that these beers are going to appeal to our existing drinkership, as well as a lot of new consumers,” director of sales Naomi Neville said. “We are going to bring more people into drinking Allagash — for more people, places and occasions.”
Asked if Little Grove is meant to target hard seltzer drinkers, Neville said the new line is a beer made with real fruit and is more reminiscent of a wine spritzer, a rosé or an aperol spritz.
Meanwhile, North Sky, a Belgian-inspired stout at 7.5% ABV, will be sold in 4-packs of 16 oz. cans with a suggested retail price of $13.99. The new brand will also receive a draft release at a later date.
“Stouts in cans are up 28% year-to-date in IRI data, so we really think this is something the consumer is looking for,” Neville said. “I’m super excited. I think it’s going to fly off the shelf.”
Allagash is targeting a September launch for both new products, with a goal of being included in fall resets at off-premise retailers.
Allagash White 6-packs are expected to reach store shelves in September. The company rolled out 12-pack cans of Allagash White earlier this year to most of its footprint. The flagship is also available in 4-packs of 16 oz. cans and 12-packs of 12 oz. bottles.
“We’ve been talking about it for years,” Neville said. “Our shift in strategy over the past several years to becoming more off-premise led us to this point, and then the current shift in market conditions with COVID-19 that Rob just referenced has really given us the green light to go right ahead with this.”
To facilitate its pivot to the off-premise trade, Allagash has installed a high-speed canning line at its Portland, Maine brewery as part of a larger $4.5 million expansion, and expanded its sales team to include chain-focused employees two years ago.
“The nice thing about being so underdeveloped in a channel — you can see how underdeveloped we are on the off-premise — is that to us, that basically means a tremendous amount of opportunity for the brand,” Tod said.
On tap, Allagash White is the most valuable craft tap handle in the country, generating $15,927 per draft line, compared to $7,782 per draft line for the tenth most profitable, according to numbers Allagash shared from on-premise market research firm Nielsen CGA.
“Allagash White, per point of distribution out of the major craft brands, is the most profitable draft line that you can pour,” Tod said. “It’s also amazing that, versus the No. 10 brand, it’s actually twice as profitable.”
Allagash is also looking to take 12-packs of River Trip table beer to its 17 state (and Washington, D.C.) footprint by August.
Allagash is also testing distribution to the Florida and Wisconsin markets, with the potential to add those states if they perform well.