Saint Archer Gold might have needed just a little more patience.
But Molson Coors’ patience with the brand — the company’s answer to the top-selling super premium offering, Anheuser-Busch’s Michelob Ultra — has run out, the company announced Friday, citing pressures caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
In a memo to wholesalers and executives titled “Prioritizing our Innovation Investment,” Molson Coors chief marketing officer Michelle St. Jacques wrote that the company would “hibernate” Saint Archer Gold, while accelerating its investment behind Blue Moon Light Sky and Vizzy Hard Seltzer.
Hibernate, in the case of Gold, means selling through existing inventory and shelving the brand, with no plans for new marketing or media programs.
“This has been an incredibly tough decision,” St. Jacques wrote. “Saint Archer Gold has a strong provenance, a fantastic liquid, stand-out packaging and was launched with enthusiastic support from all of you.
“And while early results of the launch were positive,” she continued, “the effects of the coronavirus on our industry 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.”
Molson Coors bet big on Gold at the start of the year, pledging in January to take the brand national, and planning a $20 million marketing spend behind the brand, according to the San Diego Business Journal.
The investment behind Gold included buying ad time in 70 markets during Super Bowl LIV — the first time the company purchased Super Bowl ad time since 2009. The ad, titled “Patience,” starred Saint Archer co-founder and pro skateboarder Paul Rodriguez, who whistled Guns N Roses’ “Patience” as he skated from store to store in search of Gold while bypassing stacks of Michelob Ultra before he eventually found a 12-pack.
Molson Coors’ play with Gold was to reach consumers seeking healthier lifestyle options. Gold checks in at 95 calories and 2.6 grams of carbs per 12 oz. serving. And yet, the company seemingly separated the brand from its namesake craft brewery, presenting it as a standalone brand.
Year-to-date through June 14, dollar sales of Saint Archer Gold in off-premise retailers have topped $7.7 million (+1,436%), according to market research firm IRI. Over the last four weeks (ending June 14), Gold dollar sales topped $1.2 million.
Nevertheless, the loss of opportunities to sample Gold in grocery and liquor stores coupled with the shutdown of the on-premise crippled Gold’s growth potential, the company said.
Instead, Molson Coors has turned its focus to Blue Moon Light Sky and Vizzy Hard Seltzer, as well as Coors Seltzer, which is slated to launch in September.
“Vizzy and Blue Moon Light Sky have emerged as two of the top category innovations through the first half of the year and are significantly outperforming expectations,” St. Jacques wrote. “Blue Moon Light Sky is the top-selling new beer item in 2020, according to Nielsen, the Vizzy variety pack is the No. 3 new item introduced in 2020, and we have a strong launch plan and chain support for Coors Seltzer.”
Indeed, Light Sky has outperformed Gold year-to-date, with nearly $15.5 million in dollar sales in off-premise retailers through June 14, according to IRI. Light Sky, a citrus wheat beer, checks many of the same boxes as Gold, checking in at 4% ABV, with 95 calories per 12 oz. can.
Meanwhile, Vizzy’s variety pack has brought in more than $12 million in dollar sales in off-premise retailers through mid-June, IRI reported.
“The choices we’re making today will allow us to put even more energy, resources and focus behind these big bets and the upcoming launch of Coors Seltzer,” St. Jacques wrote. “We continue to be committed to winning in the above premium beer space and expect continued focus there in 2021 with more details to come.”
Molson Coors announced today that the company will boost its hard seltzer production capacity by more than 400%, through a multimillion-dollar expansion project at its production facility in Fort Worth, Texas. Those investments, which include the installation of a new canning line and a new filtration system, are aimed at bringing production in-house from contract producers.
Additionally, Molson Coors said it has completed a new brewery near Vancouver, British Columbia, and plans to open another facility in Montreal in late 2021, as well as invest millions of dollars into its Golden, Colorado-based can manufacturing plant in an effort to bring more of its slim can production in-house by the end of 2020.
Slim cans have become increasingly important to Molson Coors, as Saint Archer Gold, Blue Moon Light Sky, Vizzy Hard Seltzer and Coors Seltzer all use the popular packaging format that has become a hallmark of super premium brands such as Michelob Ultra and hard seltzer’s top-selling offerings such as Mark Anthony Brands’ White Claw and Boston Beer Company’s Truly Hard Seltzer. However, slim cans have been in short supply.
Discontinuing Gold will ease some of that strain for Molson Coors. Still, Molson Coors wholesalers have reported higher levels of out of stocks for core SKUs due to shortages in 12 oz. cans and slim cans, Credit Suisse analyst Kaumil Gajrawala reported.
Although Molson Coors is pulling the plug on Saint Archer Gold, the company will continue on with its “Seek Gold” program, an initiative to support Black athletes in lifestyle and action sports, such as surfing, skateboarding and volleyball, through a grant program totaling $100,000.