Earlier this week, Boston Beer Co Inc (NYSE:SAM) provided an interesting little nugget for investors when it announced that its flagship beer, Samuel Adams Boston Lager, will finally be available in cans beginning this summer.
What's the big deal? In the past, founder and chairman Jim Koch has said he'll always remember the advice his father gave when he started the company: "People don't drink the marketing, they drink the beer." From the very beginning, Boston Beer has gained notoriety for its borderline obsessive emphasis on the quality of its products. Of course, that doesn't mean Boston Beer can't spend its fair share on marketing; to the contrary, the company plans to increase its advertising, promotional, and selling expenses by between $18 million and $26 million in 2013.
Nonetheless, Boston Beer's core message has remained the same all the while, from its "Freshest Beer" program to its current slogan, "For the Love of Beer." How, then, could a company known for its focus on quality over quantity -- and with a founding chairman who notoriously prefers to drink out of a glass, but will settle for a bottle -- haphazardly throw its beer into a can? After all, even as the industry created cans with a lining to minimize any metallic taste, Koch still remained resilient to the idea.
Reinventing the can Now calm down, all you craft beer purists; you can rest assured that Koch, true to form, applied his usual zeal to developing the ideal can to represent his products, spending nearly three years and more than a million dollars before he was satisfied with this result:
So how is this custom can supposed to maximize your drinking experience?
According to company representatives, the effort required the packaging expertise of Ball Corporation (NYSE:BLL), know-how from design firm IDEO, and taste and sensory input from 30-year industry veteran Roy Desrochers of GEI Consultants. With the task at hand seeming insurmountable at times -- and the project aptly named "Bunker Hill" -- Jay Billings of Ball even stated, "We thought Jim would eventually change his mind and he'd just come around. It took us a long time to understand that Sam Adams was not going to go in a standard 12-ounce beverage can."
I worked with Jim and the other brewers at Sam Adams on an ergonomic and flavor study to understand the benefits of the new can. The flared lip and wider top of the new Sam Can work in concert to deliver the beer in a way that makes the flavor closer to drinking out of a glass. Although subtle, this can delivers a more pronounced, more balanced flavor experience -- something that was very important to the brewers. The extended lip of the can also creates a smoother, more comfortable overall drinking experience.