Cheap beer gets boost from bum economy

MILWAUKEE Miller Brewing Co.’s chief executive, Tom Long, said Thursday that the company has seen an increase in the sales of less expensive beers, such as Milwaukee’s Best, since January. Long attributed this trend to conditions in the U.S. economy and added that while consumers are spending less on beer, they still seem to want plenty of choices.

“We’re trying to make sure across the portfolio, we’ve got something people are going to want to drink … Whether they’ve got a pocket full or they’re feeling a little bit pinched, that we have the right beer for them,” Long said.

Long reported that his company’s two largest brands, Miller Lite and Miller High Life, each rose 1.1 percent in sales. Sales of Miller Lite account for about 46 percent of the company’s business and High Life accounts sales make up about 14 percent. A newly launched “Take Back The High Life” campaign has helped to turn around a three-year decline for the brand, the company said.

At the close of the last fiscal year, ended March 31, Miller reported its revenue went up 4.8 percent to $5.1 billion. Earnings climbed 27 percent to $477 million for the whole year—however, $33 million came from a settlement.

In October 2007, the New York Times reported that Miller and Molson Coors Brewing Co. had announced plans for a merger. The creation of MillerCoors, combining the second and third place U.S. Brewers’ business, would help the companies stay competitive against No. 1 U.S. brewer, Anheuser-Busch, the companies said. Final approval is needed from the government, but the merger should be on track by this summer, Long said.

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