A Winning Combination: Cobranding in the Bottle

Thanks to flavor innovation from New Belgium Brewing Co., consumers can have their beer and ice cream, too. The Colorado-based craft brewery teamed up with iconic ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s to create Salted Caramel Brownie Brown Ale, expected to make its debut this fall.

Cobranding among adult beverages and restaurant brands on menus isn’t new to the industry—think the Jack Daniel’s menu at TGI Fridays—but cobranding in the bottle isn’t as popular, although it appears to be gaining traction. And for good reason. The growth of imported and craft beer confirms that consumers are seeking out more flavorful and stylistically different beers, according to Technomic’s BeerTAB.

Beer brands and styles featuring strong flavor elements resonate with today’s consumers. And what stronger flavor element than those of already widely recognized brands, like Ben & Jerry’s? Whether or not consumers have even tried Ben & Jerry’s Salted Caramel Brownie ice cream—the flavor that inspired the brew—the name alone evokes certain feelings and a kind of trust that comes from being a decades-old American brand.

Ben, Jerry and New Belgium certainly weren’t the first to cobrand in the bottle. In 2013, Cinnabon partnered with Pinnacle vodka, giving consumers the opportunity to recreate the flavors of Cinnabon’s ooey gooey cinnamon rolls in a cocktail or straight shot.

Local examples exist as well, such as Chicago-area Revolution Brewery teaming up with Dark Matter, a Windy City coffee favorite, to create Coffee Eugene, which takes a robust porter and ages it with whole bean coffee.

All of these show an effort by adult beverage makers to draw on locally known or nationally popular brands and flavors and incorporate them into their beverages. Technomic research reveals that alcohol brands highlighting specific flavor attributes are not only gaining attention but also capturing dollars. The cobranding efforts take the flavor innovation a step further, combining an interesting and innovative adult beverage offering with the confidence consumers already have in the quality and flavor of a specific food or non-alcohol beverage brand.

The partnerships are the result of careful planning and discussion between the two brands. Consumers can be quick to call out disingenuous marketing strategies, especially when they feel the partnership exists simply to provide an image boost to one brand or another. A partnership isn’t something to be taken lightly and will only work when the brands share values and goals. For example, both New Belgium and Ben & Jerry’s are known for their activism, and a spokesperson for the brewery said the collaboration is also meant to “raise awareness around issues we are passionate about.”

As competition increases in adult beverages for both on- and off-premise purchases, brands will be challenged to meet consumer demands for new and interesting flavors. Cobranding in the bottle is one innovative way to set an adult beverage apart, but brands must be cautious when choosing their partners to ensure the initiative is viewed as authentic.

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Sarah Janssen

Sarah Janssen is an Assistant Editor at Technomic Inc. in Chicago. She is responsible for writing and editing content for the company’s newsletters, blog and other publications. Prior to joining Technomic, she held various roles reporting and editing for daily and weekly newspapers.

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