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CBA Chief on becoming more targeted in 2011

For Craft Brewers Alliance, the majority of 2010 was spent courting strategic rather than just topline growth, which has been good for profits, said chief Terry Michaelson to BBD. Still, Terry said both STRs and shipments accelerated in a positive direction as the year wore on. SIG scan numbers agree: YTD, sales were up 6.8%, signifying slower growth earlier in the year than the 8.8% with which they ended the 4 weeks ending December 26. CBA's challenge going forward is to leverage each unique brand as a smart missile, homed to connect with the right shade of craft beer drinkers, a group Terry says is increasingly nuanced. "All of that [diversification] is happening in every region, so you'll see us be more aggressive, in expanding into regions we already are [in 2011]." CBA spent much of 2010 gathering intel from retailers and wholesalers to better acquaint themselves with the needs of each region, consumer and occasion, from white tablecloth to corner bar, c-stores and major chains. Terry described some implications in action: Newer, fair weather craft beer drinkers want "something that's refreshing -- that's Kona.... For the high-end experiencer, that's the Widmer Brothers' Reserve series: Barrel Aged Brrrbon, or Prickly Pear Braggot (mead). And then we have a number of beers targeted at that core craft consumer, so the introduction of Widmer's black IPA was a great success." He said Redhook's seasonal Nut Brown, renamed Mudslinger Spring Ale this year, also saw success. But the Alliance's portfolio variety can also be a challenge when trying to convey the uniqueness of each. The test of the pertinent strategy will come as early as March. "You'll see some new beers from each brand; some packaging that we think is going to be fun and allow us to celebrate the brands in a bigger and more authentic way," Terry said.