COMMENT: Hooch’s last orders
Eight years after it kick-started a new market for alcoholic drinks, Hooch has been scheduled for termination by Coors. In its place the company will be promoting Reef, its own ready-to-drink spirit.
Launched in 1995, Hooch was an innovative new way to target younger drinkers, by offering a sweet and fizzy taste more similar to soft drinks than to beer or spirits. At its peak in 1998 it was selling 2 million units. However, the brand's positioning had left it facing severe criticism. Hooch explicitly target younger drinkers - that was the reason the drink had been developed. However, anti-drinking campaigners claimed that it was encouraging, and in fact aimed at, under-age drinkers. In order to meet this criticism, Hooch toned down its adverts and began advising its customers to drink responsibly.
However, the campaigners had clearly associated Hooch with young and under-age drinkers. As a result, its image among young, over-age drinkers became tarnished. For these consumers, the appearance of maturity and sophistication is highly important.
Other manufacturers quickly got in on the act. Bacardi Breezer, now the most successful of the ready-to-drink spirit in the UK, produced a drink that was targeted at young adult women and which was ostensibly not targeted at 'new drinkers'. Smirnoff Ice followed suit and later Smirnoff Black was produced, which was specifically targeted at men. Both these drinks have a much more sophisticated image than Hooch, and this has been the key to their development of the market. Nevertheless their target market is still the 18-24 year old drinker.
Hooch was the first mover and virtually created a new market. However, like so many first movers, it was soon overtaken by other brands that had the opportunity to find and improve on the weak spots in the concept.
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