"[Another tough sell] was Captain Morgan Gold. We had just finished our first year with Smirnoff Ice, the most successful launch in 50 years. We were drunk with success and thought anything we did would sell. Wrong! It had a great bottle, great label, great advertising... and a lousy product that wasn't tested. We lost something like $10 million on that, and we came perilously close to harming the rum franchise. Lots of lessons learned there, like test the product!”
"Kronenbourg, from France's Alsace region on the German border, tried to come [to the US] around 1980. They hired high-level execs and a bunch of ad guys, and it all went nowhere. Supposedly, they ran a lot of TV commercials before they even had distribution in stores... that was a huge no-no back then."
“In 1984, a prince from the family that had ownership in Stella Artois visited Carlton Importing asking if we’d carry [it]. Stella had failed in a couple markets in the late ‘70s. We (and I guess all the other importers) turned him down."
"There were [already] many European imported beers in the market. At that time, a beer from Belgium seemed a much harder sell than one from Germany. We [sold] St. Pauli Girl from the Beck's Brewery, so we had no interest in Stella. My guess is that they decided not to try the US on their own, because no top importers wanted them, most likely. Stella concentrated on building a business in England in the 1990s. Their popularity in England may have given them confidence to try the US.”
"That's one of the great mysteries of life: what happened to Michelob?"
“At a liquor store once, I overheard another rep trying to place Stella. He was giving the pitch -- "It's been around for this long!", "It's huge in Europe!", "It'll do better than Heineken for you!" -- and it was nothing-doing. They were one of many, and they just could not break in. Belgium didn’t have the well-known brewing tradition like Germany & Austria... They struggled for a long time."
Cans? Can't do it.
"We all know price points and how important it was to ‘keep the image’. Well Moosehead started to make cans, and they were sitting. We were offered $3 per case to try and get them moving. Well the distributor and I had this great idea: we put it all into the price (along with his portion), and we were selling them for $7.99/case to the retailer with a $9.99 price to consumer. Needless to say, we took all the cans Moosehead could supply us. We liquidated the country and ruined the brand for good. The price-to-retailer should have been $16.99. We sold over 40,000 cases of cans. Great for us, lousy for the brand. We [got rid of] Moosehead shortly after that. So did the distributor.”