You know something is going on when a company with the stature of beer industry titan Anheuser-Busch rolls out a product like BE (pronounced B-to-the-E, with the "B" standing for "beer" and the "E" signifying "extra"). It's a beer that also contains caffeine, ginseng and guarana—an additive package found in many energy drinks. It might sound like a goofy combination to you, but Anheuser-Busch pushed up its launch date on this one after getting some feedback from the first round of customer tests.
"BE is generating excitement," says Dawn Roepke, brand manager for new products for the company. "In October we quietly rolled out BE in 55 cities. The response proves that BE gives today's highly social contemporary adults what they're searching for in their beverage of choice."
Apparently, they're searching for a beverage that will let them extend their buzz and their evening. It's something the makers of Red Bull energy drink found out a couple of years ago. Now Red Bull and other energy drink companies will have to bump heads with Budweiser to keep their share of the party-all-night-long market.
They've got their work cut out for them. "BE goes right up against mixed drinks and will help us maintain and grow our share of contemporary adults who have many choices in today's competitive markets," Roepke adds. She says many customers drink it over ice, a key point if you want to compete against mixed drinks.
Budweiser packages BE in 10-oz. cans, that cost slightly more than the company's regular beers. BE contains 6.6 percent alcohol by volume, and each can contains 54 milligrams of caffeine—the same as you'd find in a half a cup of coffee.
If you get a 20- or 30-something crowd in your bar in the evenings, your chances of selling some of this stuff should be good. Just alert your bouncer and other staffers that it's going to be a long night.
But maybe those customers will still opt for a mixed drink. That's what coffeehouse giant Starbucks is hoping. Starbucks has partnered with Jim Beam Brands Co. to produce Starbucks coffee liqueur. They've positioned it as a premium product, with a 750-ml bottle selling for $23.
So will anyone be able to buy Starbucks coffee liqueur at one of the 9,000 Starbucks locations? Nope. They don't have liquor licenses. Instead, customers who want to try this liqueur will have to come to a place like yours to give it a try. And as you are already well aware, Starbucks has a lot of devoted customers who just might be willing to do so.
"Extending our brand into new channels outside of Starbucks stores is part of our long-term growth strategy," says Starbucks c.e.o.-designate Jim Donald. "The test market phase of this new product rollout confirmed what we already knew--Starbucks coffee lovers want this product."
Great. But do they want to have mixed alcoholic drinks in non-Starbucks coffeehouse settings? Sounds like they do. The company says nearly 50 percent of its patrons already consume coffee liqueurs, and research shows its customers are nine times more likely than the national average to drink them.
OK, you say, but you're already doing well selling Kahlua or another coffee-flavored liqueur. Keep in mind that Starbucks really knows how to move the merchandise in channels other than its own stores. The company teamed with Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream in 1995 to produce Starbucks coffee ice cream and hooked up with the Pepsi-Cola Company in 1996 to produce the Starbucks Frappuccino coffee drink. Both of these items, as well as Starbucks DoubleShot espresso drink, are the No. 1 product in their respective categories.
So why not let Starbucks' marketing might do some of the heavy lifting for your restaurant's bar operation?
But if you don't have a liquor license, don't worry. The beverage industry has another product you can sell that also comes with strong built-in brand equity. It's Wolfgang Puck's line of gourmet lattes. We should say, Wolfgang Puck's line of self-heating gourmet lattes. The Austrian-born superchef and now one-man conglomerate formed Wolfgang Puck Beverage Partners in 2003 and launched a four-flavor brand of single-serve lattes--Dulce de Leche, French Vanilla, Rich Espresso and Rich Mocha. These are iced coffee drinks that come packed in 11 oz. Glass bottles and sell for $1.59.
All four versions played to rave taste-test reviews--no surprise to those who have followed Puck's other venture into food products. His wood-fired pizzas are the gold standard in the frozen pizza category, where he sells five million a year. And you'd be hard pressed to find a better canned soup than the ones that bear Puck's name.
All four original latte flavors are still available and he's added low-carb versions, too. But the big news is that Puck and his beverage partners now also pack these flavors in self-heating containers. "Now enjoy a hot, rich and creamy-tasting Wolfgang Puck Gourmet Latte whenever you desire," the chef says.
It's some technology. Press a small button and the container mixes a small amount of calcium oxide and water together that in turn heats the can's contents to 145 degrees in somewhere between five and eight minutes. The product then stays warm for about one-half hour. It's like a "Mr. Wizard" episode come to life.
The novelty factor alone should drive plenty of sales, and the convenience factor should drive even more. Throw in the fact the whole works bears Puck's name with its implied level of chef-driven quality and it looks like a winner.
If you sell to-go beverages at your operation, it's hard to see why this one wouldn't be worth a try. The product retails for around $2.00.