The US brewing industry is mainly dominated by six main key competitors towards a small number of local competitors. As a reality of the industry, the main costs are the commodity, production costs (brewing&packaging) which oriented major brewers to backward integration in order to become cost-efficient. Cheaper distribution strategies may create real competitive advantage in brewing industry. The competitive rivalry is broken up into three main segments, National, Regional, and Microbrewers. National competitors have wide market coverage and generally a large company.
Regional competitors are smaller than National in the fact that they only distribute in certain regions. Microbrewers are the smallest of the three because their size and capacity limit them to only distribute to small geographic areas. Due to the strong rivalry among existing competitors, new entrants to the industry face many difficult barriers to entry by the existing bigger brewers. Large capital requirements and the need to establish a very strong distribution network are the main barriers.
Many laws and regulations may also inhibit a new entrant from coming into the market. In addition to this, the threat of substitute products is moderate in the industry. On the other hand, the demand has grown generally only at less than one percent over the four decades, except the period from 1960 to 1980 which is characterized by the higher consumption of younger drinkers and efficient marketing strategies driven by key market players mainly focusing on pricing and differentiation. Coors in the Brewing Industry
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The core competencies of Coors brewing company were the production quality focusing on most qualified inputs and better production processes and the brand positionning emphasizing the image of quality. Coors products differentiation was coming from both in the materials that went into the beer and in the process they followed to brew it. The extra costs of better production processes are controlled by single product focus, running the fastest packaging lines as a result of vertical integration and benefiting from economies of scale through the country’s largest brewery.
By creating a perception of a natural, high quality product Coors was able set high relative price while maintaining a high volume of sales. Coors responded to the need to fill excess capacity by national rollout. But the lack of efficient distribution channel and multiple production sites were the main significant disadvantages of the company. The company overcame this obstacle by establishing distribution centres in outlying markets and working with weaker distributors willing to sell only Coors.
Opposing to its past strategies, Coors focused on weaker distributors and spent more to manage the relationships. The company had begun to focus more on advertising and marketing. The expansion strategy was supported by strong brand image campaigns focusing on product quality strengthened the brand ever than before towards competitors. Due to increasing competition, they also began to launch different segments of beers. The agreements made by Molson of Canada and Kaltenberg Castle of West Germany may be treated as the positioning strategies in international marketplace.
Coors’s plan for multisite expansion included a new facility in Virginia, to supply the eastern states in order to support future demand and absorb the increased shipping costs. Now the main question is that building a new facility would be profitable or not for Coors. The slow trend in sales growth from 1975 to 1985 might be taken as evidence that they would not need more than 25 million barrels in capacity in the near future. The costs savings from reduced shipping costs could be offset simply by scaling their existing facility.
Building the new facility in Virginia might be against Coors’ product differentiation supported mainly by the pure ingredient “Rocky Mountain spring water” which in reality is the core competency for the company due to the location. Any facility built outside Colorado will not brew beer with the Rocky Mountain spring water. The past inefficient strategies should be investigated by the company. First of all, Coors could have continued to dominate the western region.
Coors should have expanded the production capacity to support the consumption increase before the competitors moved production into territory. The possible solutions for competitors would be in this case, tolerate higher shipping costs for market entry or build a large, underutilized, production facility. So they had to accept Western market region belonged to Coors. Additionally, by growing dominance in their western territories, Coors would have built an even stronger position over their distribution channels.
On the other side, in terms of marketing approach Coors should have focused on maintaining the Coors’ brand image in its core territory rather than reaching the niche market with limited penetration. The product strategy should also have been driven with a different approach. Rather than multiple product segments expansion, Coors should have only focused on rapidly growing light beer segment with their successful Coors Light product which would have reduce the cannibalization of super-premium products on Coors Banquet.
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