New Packaging, Lower Pricing on Tap at Ballast Point

Following a proprietary review of the craft beer segment, and its own positioning within it, Constellation Brands has re-launched a number of its Ballast Point offerings with a new look in an attempt to “tell its story more effectively” to consumers.

In an interview with Brewbound, Constellation CMO Jim Sabia and Marty Birkel, the president of the organization’s craft and specialty division, said an initiative to better understand consumer-purchasing behavior provided the company with some key takeaways that helped shape its overall craft strategy moving forward.

In formal interviews with craft beer drinkers – those who were solicited for the study as well as patrons that visited Ballast Point’s eight tasting room locations – Constellation discovered that 58 percent of craft consumers prefer to drink beers that range between 4 percent and 6 percent alcohol by volume.

The company also learned that two-thirds of U.S. craft beer drinkers, when presented with a list of 10 brands, were unfamiliar with Ballast Point. It also found that 80 percent of drinkers were unaware of the company’s Sculpin IPA offering.

Using those insights, Constellation decided to rebrand its more “approachable” offerings — Even Keel Session IPA, Bonito Blonde, Longfin Lager, Grunion Pale Ale – so that they “stood out” from flagship Sculpin IPA and all of its flavor variants. It also repositioned Fathom India Pale Lager as an “easy drinking” West Coast-style IPA that checks in at 6 percent ABV.

“We have done a lot of market structure work, to understand what a consumer thinks about when buying beer,” Sabia said. “They look at national, regional and local brands, but then they look at IPA. IPA is part of the structure of how craft beer drinkers buy craft beer.”

The entire line, which is referred to internally as the “discovery series” and has been redesigned to prominently feature various icons such as the bonito fish and a deep-sea divers helmet, is aimed at attracting new consumers, Sabia said.

Constellation plans to “lead” with Fathom IPA, Sabia added, noting that 75 percent of craft dollar growth is coming from the IPA category.

“That is where so many consumers are,” he said. “It is a vibrant category, and by having a more approachable brand, we can get new consumers into the franchise.”

All of the beers in the “discovery series” will be priced between $9.99 and $10.99 per six-pack, a spot where 50 percent of category growth is coming from, according to Sabia. Constellation then hopes to trade consumers up to the pricier Sculpin IPA, which retails for $14.99.

“We want to grow Sculpin, create new consumers and keep the brand vibrant,” Birkel said.

Beyond the Sculpin franchise, Birkel said he hopes consumers continue their journey through the Ballast Point portfolio by experimenting with higher end “explorer series” beers such as a barrel-aged version of Victory at Sea, which sourced wood from Constellation’s High West Distillery and is slated for a November release.

Birkel also told Brewbound that Constellation recently began using internal sales information, wholesaler insights and data from market research firms to create an account segmentation process that helps it place “the right beers into the right accounts.”

These adjustments, coupled with a key executive change at Ballast Point and the purchase of Florida’s Funky Buddha Brewery, are all part of Constellation’s renewed focus on the craft beer category – something it wasn’t participating in until it purchased Ballast Point in late 2015. To better manage its craft business, the company recently formed a new “Craft and Specialty” business group specifically tasked with overseeing present and future craft brewery purchases.

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