Coors Hopes to Revive Its Fading Irish Red

Coors Brewing hopes to revive its fading Killian's Irish Red beer by positioning it against the trendier microbrews, but industry watchers say it won't be easy to turn the brand around.

Despite the increasing number of entries to the category and higher price points, overall sales remain flat in the $78 billion beer industry as brands take share from each other and consumers migrate to wine, spirits, and other beverages.

"People are not drinking more," says Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys, so there's only so much "share of stomach."

Killian's Irish Red, which is domestically produced, has seen its sales sink in the last five years from more than 700 barrels in 2000 to 470 barrels in 2005, according to Beer Marketer's Insights.

Mike Bainbridge, executive vice president of intelligence at the package design firm Sterling Group, says Killian's has been squeezed by premium beers such as Sam Adams and a rebirth of "blue collar" beers like Pabst Blue Ribbon.



Killian's "doesn't have an identity. It has this pseudo Irish thing going on, and it's not an import," Bainbridge says. Coors "needs to decide if it's a quality brew or on the lower end, but trying to compete with the microbrews is going to be a really hard sell."

And that's exactly what the brand is looking to do, going against the likes of Sam Adams and Corona. Taxi, a New York boutique, will handle ads.

Coors has had success with micro-brands. Its Blue Moon wheat beer has experienced high double-digit growth for the past few years.

Still, Bainbridge suggests that a better alternative for Killian's would be to position itself as a dark value brand--which would make it stand out among mostly light-colored beers, such as National Light and Old Milwaukee, in the lower price range.

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