“Whale” Sales – Limited Release Marketing

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Rare Beers

Limited Releases.  Rares.  Whales.  Trophies. Collectors items.  Investments. Beers.

Jester King

Jester King’s Atrial Rubicite

Call them what you will, these brands are unique tools used within the industry to not only generate revenue and brand recognition, but to increase velocity for the brand the entire year. Some production companies have built their model on limited releases, with breweries such as Jester King and Side Project. Many brands are even brewery release only for some producers, in states where that is legal.

Perennial LogoOthers have core lines that are solid revenue generators, and limited releases that boost the company overall in brand recognition and revenue, such as Perennial, Bells and Cigar City.

Then there are some breweries that have core brands, seasonals and limited releases that sustain the company, but a limited release that is the true highlight of the year brand wise, such as Goose Island and their Bourbon County series.

While seasonal brands come, whether it be bi-monthly, every quarter, or trimester, there is more regularity to those lines of product.  The supply is usually enough to cover the entire distribution footprint of the supplier reasonably for the duration of the season, with things tailing off inventory wise at the end of the season, in transition to the next. These transitions are a definite learning curve for younger breweries, but a vital part of the business for many. New Belgium Brewing has a solid core brand line up and has artfully utilized the seasonal brands, limited release brands and special release brands all at once to maintain an constant market presence of consistency and bringing the consumer what they want in something new.

New Belgium Side Trip

Side Trip Seasonal

New Belgium La Folie

Lips of Faith La Folie

New Belgium Ben & Jerry's

Special Release Collaboration Ben & Jerry’s Salted Caramal Brownie Brown Ale

Where  limited releases, can have any schedule that the production company would like to utilize and the volume produced is usually quite small in comparison to a seasonal.  These brands are usually allocated out by either the producer or the distributor, or both, based on the retail accounts support of that producers brand year long.

Anyone that has spent any significant time in the industry on the production or distribution tier knows and understands all of this.  The general public, the consumers, know that there have limited windows of time in which to purchase, limited bottle numbers allowed to purchase, and that if they miss their chance they have to wait or look for local trade markets or the illegal yet very popular secondary sales and shipping markets.  The secondary markets are never a good idea, because it is in all honestly black market trading with no regulation other than self regulation, and simply because it is against multiple laws. It’s rarely enforced though, which is why so many people do it.

Retailers, both on and off premises, are wise to be aware of the fact that supporting the brands year round are what gain them their allocations of the limited releases.  With so many new brands, and new releases, and seasonals, it is easy for a retailer, especially an on premises account, to cherry pick what is new and shiny out of the offerings from all of their distributors and rarely have a core brand on tap all year long.  If a retailer does that, they are simply following consumer demand, because in todays rotation nation market of beer handles, the consumer wants what is new, what is shiny, and what they can’t get anywhere else.  So retailers, following that mentality, have swayed away from the core brands of many suppliers, but want the limited releases.

Herein lies the conundrum:

From a producers end, the more overall volume, which is driven by the core and seasonal brands, increases the ability to producer a larger volume of the limited release, should they decide to do so.

From the distributors end, the accounts that support the brands the most, are going to reap the rewards from doing so and benefit moreso from a limited release allocation than an account that only wants the special releases.

So the prodcuers and the disrtibutors are very aligned with how they want for these rarer beers to be sold. The division comes at the retail and consumer level.

The consumers on their end want the limited release, they also want all the limited releases, and all the seasonals, and with so many brands, and so few taps, regardless the size of the account, the core brands are being cannibalized at the expense of the limited.

The retailers on their end, are typically following in suit with their consumers, occasionally bringing a core brand on, unless a core brand is already a money making, volume sales producing brand in that market.

So the retailers and the consumers have to remember that increased core brand support typically leads to increased limited release volume, thus making everyone happier.

Cigar City Hunahpu

Cigar City’s Hunahpu

Does your brand not have that strongly desired limited release yet?  Do not worry, many do not.  Many brands have popular seasonals, and core brands.  Most of the limited released brands started small batch because they were run on a pilot system, received welcoming reviews, and for one reason or another, the brewery decided to keep it limited. In majority of the cases, the scarcity is a determined or forced scarcity on the part of the brewery, which is the marketing technique that helps to sustain the demand.  Barrel aging a beer is a good way to have a factor that is not merely “we decided to make that much” due to the number of barrels available and the space to cellar them for as long as needed.  Regardless, having a “whale” is not a neccesary thing for succeeding as a producer, however, there is no denying that the limited release brand in the portfolio provides a nice bump in both revenue and brand recognition.

Especially with every media outlet imaginable creating their own Top 10 lists of something these days…. “Top 10 Shower Beers”“Top 10 Lawnmower Beers”“Top 10 Beers to pair with your Grill this Summer”.. “Top 10 Beers to make a Top 10 list to”… ok that last one is a headline I just made up.

No matter what tier you are in, the limited release brands are worth utilizing to help maximize your profit potentials through the year, there are many ways to use the increased demand for these brands to leverage sales in some of your slower moving areas as well.