Building a beer for Latinos

May 1, 2014, 2:59 PM UTC


FORTUNE – When it comes to wooing Latino consumers, MillerCoors is now moving beyond mere marketing.

The Chicago-based beer maker, a joint venture of SABMiller (SBMRY) and Molson Coors Brewing Company (TAP), this year is releasing products specifically aimed at appealing to the tastes of one of the fastest-growing segments of the U.S. population.

Coors Light Summer Brew, a citrus-flavored beer, hits shelves today. The beer, which will only be available for a limited time, is squarely targeted at Hispanic audiences. The company says the beer is the first-ever line extension under the Coors Light brand.

“Winning in beer for MillerCoors means we have to win with the multicultural consumer,” says Rudy Rodriguez, the company’s senior director of multicultural marketing. And so rather than simply promoting its products with bilingual spots or ads designed to connect with Latino audiences, Coors Light Summer Brew “was designed specifically for the Latino drinker to bring new users into the franchise,” Rodriguez says.

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The new products come as MillerCoors has failed to capture a representative share of the Latino market. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Hispanics are expected to make up about 15% of the total U.S. drinking age population in 2015, 18% by 2025, and 25% by 2045, says Donna Hood Crecca, a senior director at industry research firm Technomic. Hispanics are also growing in buying power: Nielsen says spending by the demographic is expected to hit $1.5 trillion in 2015, up from $1 trillion in 2010.

Beer has lost share to wine and spirits over the last decade, which makes the Hispanic market even more critical. Nielsen data shows that Latino males ages 21-27 drink 20% more than their general market counterparts, says Rodriguez. The company’s own internal research shows that the share of total beer consumed by legal-drinking-age Latino adults is 16.3%. “They’re a big, growing, and valuable target,” Rodriguez says.

With Coors Light Summer Brew, the company wanted a beer that had broad appeal to all consumers — but it heavily factored its research on Latinos’ preferences, such as a partiality for flavored drinks. The innovation team tested heavily with that demographic as it developed the new citrus-infused beer.

MillerCoors took the same approach when it launched Redd’s Apple Ale, a different fruit-flavored drink. With Redd’s it also “oversampled” with Latinos as it developed the product. In highly populated Latino markets such as Miami, Chicago, and Orlando, in a one-year period Redd’s garnered a 10% share in dollar sales of the flavored-malt beverage category.

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The company is also playing off the popularity of its Blue Moon Belgian White beer, which is growing faster with Latinos than the general market. Blue Moon Brewmaster Keith Villa, a third generation Mexican-American, has created a seasonal brew called Cinnamon Horchata Ale that will be out September through December.

MillerCoors says it also remains committed to multicultural advertising — something all marketers at the company are required to take training in. Both general market and Latino-targeted ads for Summer Brew were developed by the company’s Hispanic ad agency Bromley.

And even though MillerCoors isn’t a 2014 World Cup sponsor (rival Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD) is), the company will make a huge advertising push around the tournament on Univision, which has the Spanish-language rights to the tournament. After all, says Rodriguez, Futbol (known to some as soccer) is his target demographics’ “No. 1 passion point.”