Summer 2013 might be history, but it has been a season to remember for MillerCoors- owned Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing.
Leinenkugel, a highly popular brand in its native Wisconsin and now elsewhere, watched as its summer, 2013 beer sales reached new heights and it has one specific brand in particular to credit: Leinenkugel Summer Shandy. A mixture of beer and lemonade, this product accounted for nearly 10 percent of MillerCoors craft beer growth for the year, according to official Neilsen survey data. For a single brand to command that much growth is remarkable, and it has positioned the Leinenkugel brand to further promote itself among imbibers of this refreshing beer/fruit combination.
“Summer Shandy is 50 percent of our total business right now,” said Jake Leinenkugel, president of the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company. “We never thought it would be that big but it continues to grow.”
Dick Leinenkugel, business development manager for MillerCoors craft division, voiced similar optimism: “It certainly put us on to another level and I think it will have a halo effect,” he said “It gives us a real strong platform because there are more people than ever interested in our brand. After they discover Summer Shandy, they say ‘what else do you make?'”
Leinenkugel Summer Shandy isn’t a brand new product. Leinenkugel released it in 2007 and while sales may have been acceptable when it debuted, they have accelerated since. It certainly hasn’t hurt that Leinenkugel Summer Shandy is the first Leinenkugel product distributed in all 50 states and that it’s the first Leinenkugel product with a national television advertisement campaign. But the ultimate driver of growth is the consumer and they seem to be saying, in a loud and unified voice, that they really enjoy this beer and can’t wait for it to return.
Why do people like Leinenkugel Summer Shandy so much? The reasons are many, but the primary quality consumers like is the refreshment. With its less bitter flavor profile and spritzy, lemon soft drink- like body, it’s a good choice as a hot weather beverage. Yes, there is some beer character present as well, even if a little less so than the die- hard craft beer crowd would prefer. But the main driver of sales and the main reason so many consumers love Leinekugel Summer Shandy is its ability to offer relief from the summer heat.
Some have criticized Jacob Leinenkugel as a craft beer wannabe or a “crafty” beer due to its affiliation with a large brewing operation like MillerCoors. But like Blue Moon, Leinenkugel’s products are at least in the neighborhood of craft beer. No, they cannot be officially classified as craft beer because, by strict definition, a craft brewery has to be independently owned. But that doesn’t mean Leinenkugel, Blue Moon, and others like them cannot at least make beers that are more flavorful than the typical mass- produced American lager.
Leinenkugel Summer Shandy could probably continue its success as a year- round malt beverage, but Jacob Leinenkugel and parent MillerCoors will continue to release it exclusively as a summer seasonal. In the meantime, they have a similar beer, Leinenkugel Orange Shandy, waiting in the wings as a fall release. Leinenkugel is hopeful that the momentum of Summer Shandy will spill over and make this new fall seasonal a similar success.