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The year in review.

The national economy was plagued by recession in 1991, and the beer market suffered a two-percent downturn over the course of the year. Although the old saw about a "recession-proof" beer industry may hold true, the added burden of an excise tax took its toll on sales.

This impact manifested itself strongly in the beginning of the year, as retailers subsisted on hoarded pre-tax stock, and many wholesalers suffered through a tough first quarter. This first quarter set the one for the remainder of the year, and the sales decline touched every tier of the industry.

"Lawmakers need to understand that there is a significant ripple effect when they raise taxes," said NBWA president Ron Sarasin. "It's not just brewers and wholesalers who feel the crunch. Farmers, can manufacturers, truck and trailer sales...all get hurt."

Anheuser-Busch, in fact, estimated the potential job loss in brewing and related industries could reach more than 20,000.

Domestic beer sales (including imports) declined from 193,256,000 to an estimated 188,746,000 barrels in 1991. This reflected an estimated 3,653,000-barrel drop for domestic brewers and a 9.8-percent, 857,000-barrel drop for the imports.

The only bright spot in the picture is the growing strength of American beer exports. Exports made an estimated 9.3-percent climb to 4,600,000 barrels. There is no question that America's top brewers are gathering steam for their long-awaited push on the the international market.

Despite the pressure valve of export sales, however, domestic brewers found it impossible to chalk up the sales gains of previous years. Of the top five brewers, only one made a gain of more than a percentage point.

Industry leader Anheuser-Busch was not immune to market conditions, as the company suffered one of the first volume drops in its recent history. A-B sales dropped 462,000 barrels, or 0.5 percent, from 86,500,000 31-gallon barrels down to 86,038,000.

Despite the drop, the giant brewer increased market share, which rose to 45.6 percent of the U.S. market.

Number-two Miller Brewing Co. suffered a similarly slow year, but sales did tick upward slightly, 0.23 percent, to 43,600,000 barrels.

Number-three Coors managed to increase its sales 1.6 percent, as barrelage rose to 19,521,000 from 1990's 19,200,000 barrels.

The Stroh Brewery Co.'s volume dropped 1.9 percent, going from 16,100,000 to an estimated 15,800,000 barrels.

America's number-five brewer, the G. Heileman Brewing Co., spent much of the year under Chapter 11 protection from its creditors. The embattled brewer suffered continued decline as sales dropped from 11,400,000 to 10,245,000 barrels (figures do not include production by the Pittsburgh Brewing Co., which reemerged as an independent brewer in 1991). Heileman's reorganization plan was accepted late in the year, but the brewer remained in questionable health.

Industry News

In a development that could have enormous impact on the U.S. brewing and wholesaling industries, a GATT (General Agreement for Tariffs and Trade) complaint was brought against U.S. marketing and tax practices.

The GATT panel recommendations, which will be released in March 1992, threatened small brewer's tax breaks and the very structure of the three-tier system.

Canada's complaint alleged that the federal excise tax structure and scores of state regulations concerning marketing practices and tax policy constituted a barrier against free trade. In June, GATT approved a probe of the complaint, and set up a panel to rule on the issue.

In February of this year, the panel found dozens of U.S. beer marketing and taxation practices to be discriminatory. "We have been told that many of the state requirements to use a wholesaler have been found to be GATT inconsistent," said NBWA president Ron Sarasin. "This means that the practices must be changed to conform to GATT requirements.

"We believe that GATT did not accept the argument put forward by the U.S. that three-tier laws were necessary to enable states to ensure proper record-keeping necessary for state excise tax collections," Sarasin continued. "It also appears that GATT did not feel like the 21st Amendment had any bearing on their decision. This is our Constitution they have just dismissed as irrelevant!"

GATT also found the preferential tax treatment given by state and federal governments to small brewers to be GATT inconsistent.

Henry King, the new chairman of the Brewer's Association of America, expressed his concern. "I think that the Canadian complaint against the U.S. is retaliation for the Stroh/Heileman complaint," King said. "The tax initiatives for small brewers passed in the mid-70s, and there was never a word of concern from the Canadians at that time."

King pointed out that many countries have moved to protect smaller brewers, including countries of the European Economic Community. "Recently the EEC finance committee passed on recommendation for adjustments to the beer excise tax for small brewers in Europe." he points out. "They're members of GATT too, and if they think the U.S. tax differential for small brewers is so restrictive, why would they make the same recommendations for themselves?"

The GATT panel recommendation is currently classified, but the report will be released to all member countries on March 16, 1992. On April 22, 1992, the report will be presented to GATT for adoption.

Malt Liquor Controversy

The summer was a long and hot one for some players in the industries, as malt liquor production and marketing came under heavy fire. The usual suspects lined up take potshots at the industry, and the issue was taken up with the vengeance by the national press.

The malt liquor category, which has been quietly humming along as a small percentage of industry sales, was suddenly thrown into the spotlight by the emergence of a new brand from Heileman - the now infamous PowerMaster.

Although PowerMaster was indistinguishable from other up-strength malt liquors in terms of alcoholic strength, the use of the "power" moniker immediately drew fire.

Other major brewers were less than pleased that Heileman proceeded with the introduction of the brand, and at least one member of the five made its feelings known to Heileman. The bankrupt brewer proceeded, however, and the industry found itself vulnerable to criticism about the production and marketing of malt liquors.

The ultimate result of the debacle was that the BATF cracked down on the brand, ciring its prohibition against power claims on malt beverage labels and advertising. As a result, Heileman pulled PowerMaster from the market.

Unfortunately, PowerMaster's brief turn under the spotlights may provide anti-alcohol groups with ammunition for some time come.

During the same period, questionable corporate citizen McKenzie River Corp. was in the news again, as New York State officials demanded that its "false, misleading and obscene" advertisements be pulled. The ads promised that St. Ides malt liquor "would get your girl in the mood quicker," among other things. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission also banned a poster for St. Ides, saying it carried gang appeal and was apparently designed to attract minors.

In December, McKenzie River finally responded to the criticism, announcing that it would change its advertising.

The furor over malt liquor advertising occurred during an unfortunate period, from a legislative point of view. Earlier in the year, the adrestriction (read ad-ban) issue had reared its ugly head, as Strom Thurmond (R-SC) and Rep. Joseph Kennedy (D-MA) introduced companion bills that will would require all alcohol beverage advertising to include warnings about its use.

As John Scully of the Washington Legal Federation pointed out, however, requiring such warnings could be the first step towards eroding the free speech protection that the Constitution gives for advertising. As Scully noted, the proposed law doesn't meet the U.S. Supreme Court tests for restrictions on advertising messages.

"Commercial free speech is what this is about," Scully said, "and the Supreme Court has held the First Amendment protects commercial free speech."

Surgeon General Antonia Novello, carrying on the activist tradition of C. Everett Koop, chimed in on the attack on beer industry advertising later in the year. In a December press conference, Novello called on the alcohol beverage industry to halt advertising that might appeal to people below the legal drinking age.

The beer industry responded by citing a list of industry guidelines for advertising. As Beer Institute president Jim Sanders pointed out, "I just don't think anyone is going to jump forth and concede that the surgeon general has the right or power to decide what is acceptable or unacceptable for the American public to watch."

Todd Appleman, a spokesperson for the Coors Brewing Co., echoed these sentiments, saying "We take strong exception to Novello's claim that we target underage consumers or mislead the public in any way."

Miller Brewing Co. also weighed in on the issue. "We just do not agree [that beer ads promote underage drinking]," said Miller spokesperson Patti Brash. "We work very hard to ensure that our advertising accomplishes its sole objective, and its sole objective is to encourage adult beer drinkers to choose our kind of beer over other products."

Comprehensive Recycling

The National Beer Wholesalers Association worked to pre-empt the possibility of a national bottle bill by endorsing the Comprehensive Recycling Act (H.R. 945) a bill introduced by Rep. Billy Tauzin (D-LA.). "It is easy for us to say we are opposed to legislation such as the forced national bottle bill," Ron Sarasin said, "but the voice of opposition carries more credence when it can offer a positive alternative. NBWA feels that the Tauzin proposal does just that."

In a development that some saw as boding well for industry image, the NBWA announced that it accepted an invitation from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to participate in an initiative to increase seat belt usage. The invitation was one of the first of its kind to come from the NHTSA.

Legislative Conference

Wholesalers gathered in Washington last spring for what many considered to most successful NBWA legislative conference to date. The spring 1991 conference, held in conjunction with the joint brewers conference, drew over 300 wholesalers from across the country, with 570 attendees overall.

Issues of particular importance to the attendees were the Kennedy-bill, Thurmond alcohol advertising restriction the Tuazin bill, promoting multi-material solid waste solutions instead of bottle bills and the S.O.T., requiring wholesalers to sell only to retailers that could provide proof of payment of the tax. The proper etiquette for delivering PAC checks was also discussed.

The 1992 conference is slated for April 5-8 at the Washington, D.C. Hyatt Regency. "This year's goal is to have one wholesaler from every Congressional District in the country in attendance," said new NBWA chairman Kirby Lawlis. "No one carries a greater voice with a member of Congress."

Century Council

The Century Council, a coalition of brewers, vintners and distillers, was formed to join the battle against alcohol abuse. John Gavin, former U.S. ambassador to Mexico, chairs the council. "I believe that we shouldn't have to put up with the painful costs that drunk driving and drinking are causing our nation," Gavin stated, "because we can do something about them. The Council has been created around the concept that collective action can have a greater impact than separate efforts, and never has there been an organization that can bring together all sectors of the licensed beverage industry in a united effort to attack the problems of alcohol abuse on this scale."

Also on the anti-abuse front, the Beer Institute awarded a $300,000 grant to the National Organization of Student Assistance Programs and Professionals (NOSAPP). According to BI president Jim Sanders, the grant to NOSAPP was the largest ever given by the Institute, and will help support NOSAPP's substance abuse and educational assistance programs.

In October, the NBWA and the Beer Institute announced their collaboration in a joint poster program. The two organizations cooperated on the design of three posters aimed at discouraging underage drinking. "These posters drive home the message that this industry does not want the underage drinker's business," said NBWA president Ron Sarasin, "and the industry will do everything it can to prevent our product from being purchased by minors. It is imperative that we show the nation that we're part of the solution."

In November, a Massachusetts state court ruled that the state could keep money from bottle deposits paid by consumers who do not return the containers to receive their refunds. Prior to that, unclaimed deposits has been retained by beer and soda wholesalers.

Economic Impact

The Beer Institute publicized the results of a study it produced on the economics of the beer industry, titled Brewing: A Story of Economic Impact. According to the study, the beer industry contributes more than 2.7 million jobs that pay workers $51.4 billion in wages. More than 900,000 of those jobs are in the brewing industry itself, with the remainder in wholesaling, agriculture and packaging.

Phil Katz, vice president of research at the Beer Institute, pointed out that the economic contribution of the industry goes beyond direct employment. "To use the state of Colorado as a example," Katz said, "20,000 beer industry employees used their $480 million in wages to buy houses, cars, TV sets and groceries. As a result, beer industry employees provided income to hundreds of industries."

Association News

Lee Holland, executive director of the Brewer's Association of America, announced in November that he would resign as of Dec. 31, 1991. Henry King, a well-known figure in the brewing industry, will take his place. King served as president of the United States Brewing Association for 22 years, retiring in 1983.

In December, Jack Lewis, the NBWA vice president for legislative affairs, announced that he would leave his full-time position at the end of 1991. "This industry has never faced a more concerted attack than it does today at the hands of extreme anti-alcohol groups," Lewis noted. "But, I am convinced that this industry has its act together and that it is going to emerge from this storm stronger than ever."

The NBWA appointed David Rehr as the new executive vice president of government affairs. Rehr previously served as director for the Federal Government relations, House of Representatives and for the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).


A-B reported earnings rose 10 percent in 1991's 1st quarter, despite the excise tax increase.

The company was active on the new brand front, as it announced the introduction of Natural Pilsner, a cousin to Natural Light, into test markets. The beer was launched in several test markets, including Arizona, California, Nevada, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Soon afterward, the company fielded two more new brands, Michelob Golden Draft and Michelob Golden Draft Light. The brands seemed targeted at Miller's very successful Genuine Draft brands, bearing the same MGD tag and similar packaging.

In August, A-B announced that it would hire a new advertising agency to help boost sales for the Michelob family of brands. The $40-million account went to D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, the same St. Louis agency that has handled the Budweiser brand since 1915. DDB Needham handled the account since 1984, and will retain accounts for Michelob Golden Draft, Bud Light, Bud Dry and Busch.

Also in August, A-B announced a new agreement that will allow it to market Budweiser aggressively in Britain. The agreement with Courage Ltd. calls for the British brewer to continue to make Budweiser under license, but gives Anheuser-Busch the rights to promote and distribute it.

Anheuser-Busch dedicated a new malting plant in Idaho Falls, ID, that will provide 10 percent of the brewer's future malt needs. The new plant will produce eight million bushels of malt per year.

Finally, the company announced that it had made significant steps in its effort to address drunk driving. Over the course of the year, A-B provided over 30,000 free cab rides and sponsored 5,000 designated driver programs.


Miller announced that it was reassigning the Lite beer account from Saatchi & Saatchi's Backer Spielvogel Bates agency to Leo Burnett of Chicago. The move closed one of the longest running relationships between a brand and an ad agency in the beer business. Backer, Spielvogel & Bates made the "Tastes Great, Less Filling" campaign a hallmark among beer spots and gave aging, retired sports celebrities hope for further employment. The ad agency was retained to work on Miller Genuine Draft accounts. According to analysts, the move was in response to continued erosion of Miller Lite's market share.

The advertising soon began to reflect a new approach, as television spots began to feature young actors and an "It's It and That's That" tagline.

New markets for Miller Reserve were announced, and the company announced the introduction of Ultra Lite, which began test marketing in select markets

Miller Brewing Co.'s Trenton, OH, facility, dormant since its construction in the early 1980s, finally began turning out beer in June. Although plant employment figures will not meet those hoped for by local officials, state and local government welcomed the move.


Coors had a tough first quarter, with earnings dropping 18 percent and net sales falling 3.2 percent. The drop was blamed on the recession, the Persian Gulf War and the doubling of the excise tax.

Coors recovered strongly over the course of the year, becoming a national brewer for the first time. Coors and Coors Light began distribution in Indiana, the last state where the products had not been available.

In the early part of the year, Coors suffered a production shortfall of 167,000 barrels which left some distributors on allocation. Coors attributed the shortfall to "late startup of a filler line" and "packaging complexities."

Analysts said that the shortfall indicates the complexity of distributing beer nationally from one location, and noted that Coors should optimally have breweries in five or six locations around the country.

Taking a step in that direction, Coors officially opened its Memphis, TN, plant in May. The plant is now finishing and packaging beer shipped from Golden, CO.

To help alleviate future distribution glitches, Coors also announced plans for a network of 28 satellite warehouses across the country. The plan would more than double Coors' existing distribution network. According to Coors' spokespeople, the new system will enable wholesalers to reduce the amount of beer they must stock to a 14-day inventory. The new network, composed mainly of leased warehouses, should be operational in 1992, the company reported.

One casualty of Coors' gradual expansion was the company's longtime "Rocky Mountain Spring Water" tagline. A complaint by Anheuser-Busch, Inc. spurred the BATF to rule that the company could not use the line in its packaging or advertising. Busch had pointed out that Coors ships concentrated beer to its Virginia distribution center, where it is then diluted with local water supplies.

Coors was also forced to drop its Coors Light slogan, "It won't slow you down." According to BATF director Daniel Black, the agency saw the slogan as misleading. "We all know alcohol will slow you down," he said, "It tends to slow your actions and reflexes."

Coors sniped at A-B later in the year, when the Colorado brewer filed formal complaints with the BATF and a division of the Better Business Bureau. Coors objected to a Bud Dry commercial which it said implied that light beer products were watered down and suggested that dry beer had as few calories as light beer.

Coors' completion of its U.S. market coverage in the U.S. was accompanied by its most substantial overseas expansion move yet. The Colorado brewer announced plans to build a joint-venture brewery in South Korea. According to reports, the planned joint-venture brewery will have a capacity of 1.8 million barrels, and will be 33-to 35-percent owned by Coors.

"Establishing a brewery in the Republic of Korea fulfills a very important step in Coors' plan to become an international brewer," said Peter Coors, president of the company.

Coors expanded its export market significantly, launching Coors and Coors Light in Puerto Rico. "Coors has made a significant commitment to Puerto Rico as part of its international expansion plans," said Diego Suarez, chairman and president of V. Suarez & Co., Coors master distributor on the island.

In December, Coors launched another international initiative, reporting that Scottish & Newcastle Breweries of Edinburgh, Scotland, would brew Coors Extra Gold under license. Coors and the Scottish brewery have entered into a joint venture to create a marketing and promotion company in the United Kingdom.

The joint venture will be named Coors U.K., and will be responsible for all marketing and promotion activities of Coors products.

Coors expanded its Montana barley-storage capability to keep up with an increase in contracted barley acreage. The brewer expanded acreage under contract from 18,000 acres in 1989 to 32,000 acres. The expansion included construction of two new 380,000-bushel storage bins and a facility to clean and load barley bound for the brewery.

Coors brought out a pair of new products during the year. First came Coors Cutter, the brewer's non-alcoholic entry. It was by Coors Dry.


Stroh entered the burgeoning non-alcoholic segment in April, with the launch of Old Milwaukee N.A. The new brand was originally destined for 23 states.

Stroh also entered the draft category with OM Genuine Draft and OM Genuine Draft Light.

Around mid-year, Stroh announced the appointment of Bill Henry to the position of president and chief operating officer. Henry, who has worked at Stroh since 1981, had previously held the position of senior vice president of finance.

In late August, Stroh announced that it would fight a ruling that it owes the state of New Mexico and four state wholesalers $20 million. The case, which has been in the courts for 12 years, stems from a price-affirmation dispute. Stroh contends it should not be liable at all for the bond because all price affirmation statutes were declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1989.

In November, the brewer was hit by several lawsuits from women employees, which claimed that the brewer's ads, featuring scantily clad women, were degrading and contributed to harassment in the workplace.


In April, Heileman announced what it termed, "the most extensive brand-strengthening program in the brewing industry," for the brewery's flagship brand, Old Style. The program included new advertising, extensive point-of-sale and retail promotions and new packaging.

Heileman also launched its Old Style Draft and Draft Light to compete in the draught-style lagers that have done so well recently.

In May, the company hired a new administrative chief to handle daily operations. Michael Evans.

The company looked likely to sell off one or more of its successful brands, while dropping some of its low-volume regional brands. In August, the company sold its Champale malt liquor line and its LaCroix sparkling water brand.

In September, a Minneapolis investor announced a plan to purchase Heileman's Schmidt Brewery in St. Paul, MN. The deal also included the Grain Belt beer brand.

In November, Heileman divested itself of its Frankenmuth, MI, plant, selling the vacant space for $1.5 million. The brewery may be razed to make way for a theme park.

Later in the month, it was announced that the Bond Corp. would divest itself of the Pittsburgh Brewing Co. Pittsburgh businessman Michael Carlow outbid a labor-management coalition and a group of local investors for the brewery. "Now that we're bringing back local ownership, management and workers," he said, "I think we can gain better market share."

A U.S. bankruptcy judge approved Heileman's plan for reorganizing the company in late November, 10 months after the company sought protection from its creditors while it restructured a $1.3 billion debt.

Heileman chairman Thomas Rattigan said the "speedy emergence through bankruptcy fulfills the commitment to our employees, wholesalers and suppliers at the time of filing to complete the process as promptly as possible."

Health Issues

In a tumultuous year marked by developments good and bad, there was one particularly favorable news item. According to a study conducted by Eric Rimm of the Harvard School of Public Health, a few alcoholic drinks daily can reduce the risk of serious heart disease by up to 40 percent.

The study of 27,700 men eliminated those with health problems that might have biased the findings, making it particularly significant, scientists said.

The report, funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, found that the more an individual drank, the greater the protective effect of the alcohol. Drinking two or three beers, drinks or glasses of wine a day caused an average drop in heart disease risk of 26 percent. Men who drank three or more drinks a day were as much as 40 percent less likely to suffer heart problems.

The research effort is only the latest of a number of studies to find a beneficial link between alcohol and cardiovascular health.

In a year in which anti-alcohol groups launched myriad attacks against beer and those who brew and sell it, this news provides a tangible reminder that there is nothing inherently bad about beer. Indeed, when consumed moderately, beer is actually good.
 U.S. Beer Sales - 1991 vs 1990
 1991 Barrelage 1990 Barrelage 5 Change
Domestic 180,820,000(*) 184,473,000 -2.0
Imports 7,926,000 8,783,000 -9.8
Exports 4,600,000(*) 4,208,000 9.3
Total 193,346,000(*) 197,464,000 -2.1
(*) Estimate.
Top 5 Brewer's
Market Share(*)
 1991 1990
A-B 45.6% 44.8%
Miller 23.1 22.5
Coors 10.3 9.9
Stroh 8.4 8.3
Heileman 5.4 6.4
All Others 7.2 8.8
(*) Includes Imports.
 Top Domestic Brands
(in millions of barrels)
Brands 1991 1990 % 91 % 90 %
 Change Share Share
1. Budweiser 48.1 50.6 -5.0 25.5 26.2
2. Lite 18.8 19.9 -5.5 9.9 9.9
3. Bud Light 12.5 11.7 6.8 6.6 5.8
4. Coors Light 11.7 11.2 4.5 6.2 6.1
5. Busch 9.4 9.2 2.2 5.0 4.8
6. Milwaukee's Best 7.1 6.9 2.9 3.8 3.6
7. Genuine Draft 7.0 6.5 7.7 3.7 3.1
8. Old Milwaukee 6.6 7.0 -5.7 3.5 3.4
9. High Life 5.6 6.0 -6.7 3.0 3.6
10. Coors 3.9 4.4 -11.4 2.1 2.3
 Barrelage of Top 5 Brewers, 1978-1991
 (in millions of barrels)
 A-B Miller Coors Stroh Heileman
1978 41.6 31.3 12.6 6.3 7.1
1979 46.2 35.8 12.9 6.0 11.2
1980 50.2 37.3 13.8 6.2 13.3
1981 54.5 40.3 13.3 6.2 14.0
1982 59.1 39.3 11.9 22.9 14.5
1983 60.5 37.5 13.7 24.3 17.5
1984 64.0 37.5 13.2 23.9 16.8
1985 68.0 37.1 14.7 23.4 16.2
1986 72.3 38.7 15.2 22.8 16.1
1987 76.1 39.3 15.7 21.6 16.3
1988 78.5 40.7 16.5 20.5 15.3
1989 80.7 41.9 17.7 18.2 13.1
1990 86.5 43.5 19.2 16.1 11.4
1991 86.0 43.6 19.5 15.8 10.2
 Domestic Market Share, Top 5 Brewers
 A-B Miller Coors Stroh Heileman
1978 25.6 19.3 7.7 3.9 4.4
1979 27.5 21.3 7.7 3.6 6.6
1980 28.7 21.3 7.9 3.5 7.6
1981 30.4 22.5 7.3 3.4 7.8
1982 33.0 21.9 6.7 12.8 8.1
1983 33.7 20.9 7.6 13.5 9.8
1984 36.0 21.1 7.4 13.4 9.4
1985 37.2 20.3 8.1 12.8 8.9
1986 40.5 21.7 8.5 12.8 9.0
1987 42.0 22.0 8.8 12.2 9.1
1988 43.3 22.4 9.1 11.3 8.4
1989 44.0 22.8 9.7 10.0 7.1
1990 45.9 23.1 10.2 8.5 6.5
1991 46.4 23.5 10.5 8.5 5.5
U.S. Per Capita
Consumption of
Malt Beverages
 (in Gallons)
1974 20.9
1975 21.3
1976 21.5
1977 22.4
1978 23.1
1979 23.8
1980 24.3
1981 24.6
1982 24.4
1983 24.2
1984 23.9
1985 23.7
1986 24.0
1987 23.9
1988 23.7
1989 23.4
1990 24.1
1991 23.2(*)
(*) Estimate
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Title Annotation:1991 Statistical Study: Issues & Trends; beer brewing industry
Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Article Type:Industry Overview
Date:Mar 16, 1992
Previous Article:Broadening the consumer base.
Next Article:Foster's names chief; talk of breakup.

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