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Adolph Coors Company

Adolph Coors Company

17735 West 32nd Avenue
Golden, Colorado 80401
U.S.A.
Telephone: (303) 279-6565
Fax: (303) 277-6246
Web site: http://www.coors.com

Public Company
Incorporated:
1913 as Adolph Coors Brewing and Manufacturing Company
Employees: 5,800
Sales: $2.06 billion (1999)
Stock Exchanges: New York
Ticker Symbol: RKY
NAIC: 312120 Breweries; 327213 Glass Container Manufacturing; 332431 Metal Can Manufacturing; 422810 Beer and Ale Wholesalers

Adolph Coors Company is the only family-owned brewery in the United States that was able to survive the late 20th-century consolidation of the American beer industry without relinquishing family control. The regional brewer gained national prominence in the 1960s and 1970s, but only officially achieved national distribution in 1986. Prodded from its conservative management tendencies by stagnant sales and meager profits in the late 1980s, a new generation of Coors family (and nonfamily) leaders sought to revitalize the business in the 1990s. Coors entered the 21st century ranked a distant third to market leaders Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc. and Miller Brewing Company. Coors operates the worlds largest brewery at its headquarters in Golden, Colorado, and distributes its 13 branded malt beverages in 30 countries worldwidealthough 98 percent of revenues are generated in the United States. In addition to its brewing and distribution activities, which are conducted through a subsidiary, Coors Brewing Company, Adolph Coors Company also owns and/or operates aluminum can and glass manufacturing facilities in Colorado.

The Foundation of the Brewery

Adolph Herman Joseph Coors emigrated to the United States from Germany in 1868 at the age of 21. After purchasing a Denver bottling company in 1872, Coors formed a partnership with Jacob Schueler in 1873. Although Schueler invested the lions share of the $20,000 necessary to purchase and convert an old tannery in nearby Golden into a brewery, Coors was able to buy out his partner in 1880. His acquisition inaugurated more than a century of Coors family control.

The fledgling brewerys sales increased steadily in the ensuing decades. In 1887 the brewery sold 7,049 barrels of beer (31 gallons per barrel). Three years later that figure more than doubled, reaching 17,600 barrels. Over the years Adolph Coors slowly expanded his market. By the time he officially incorporated his brewery in 1913 as Adolph Coors Brewing and Manufacturing Company, Coors beer was being distributed throughout Colorado.

Even at this early point in the companys history, the distinctive Coors philosophy was emerging. The main tenets of this philosophy adhered to by four successive generations of Coors beermakers, each generation further refining the knowledge inherited from the preceding generation, were the following: Adolph Coors believed in sparing no effort or expense in producing the best beer possible. To this end, he believed that only Colorado spring water was good enough for his beer. He also commissioned farmers to grow the barley and hops that he needed for his brewing process. The second tenet of the philosophy was that his family always came first, without exception; the Coors family brewery remained a tight-knit, protective, almost secretive enterprise. The last tenet was that a good beer sells itself. Until 1980 Coors spent substantially less on advertising than any other brewer.

Prohibition came early to Colorado. In 1916 the states legislature passed a law banning the production and consumption of alcoholic beverages within the state. Obviously, Prohibition was detrimental to Adolph Coorss brewery; some business historians assert, however, that the legislation strengthened the burgeoning company. The obvious changes in product offer-ingsCoors manufactured near beer and malted milk during this periodwere reflected in a name change, in 1920, to Adolph Coors Company. Adolph Coors and his son, Adolph, Jr., also used the opportunity to diversify their company, creating what was eventually to become a small-scale vertical monopoly: Coors acquired all that it needed to produce its beer, from the oil wells that created the energy necessary to run the brewery to the farms that grew the ingredients, and from the bottling plant that made the containers to the trucks used for distribution. This expansion was financed entirely with family money.

Astounding Post-Prohibition Growth

The repeal of Prohibition in 1933 did not result in as dramatic a sales increase for Coors as it did for many other producers of alcoholic beverages. Instead, the Adolph Coors Company, under the direction of Adolph, Jr., and his two brothers, expanded its market slowly in the 1930s. Their insistence on the use of all natural ingredients and no preservativesin accordance with the brewerys founding tenetsmade wider distribution prohibitively expensive. The beer had to be brewed, transported, and stored under refrigeration, and its shelf life was limited to one month. But if Coorss growth and development in the decades following the repeal of Prohibition was less dramatic than that of brewing powerhouses such as Anheuser-Busch and Miller, it was no less amazing. For while other regional breweries were squeezed out of the marketthe number of independents shrank from 450 in 1947 to 120 in 1967Coors grew steadily into one of Americas leading beer brands. Coorss production increased 20-fold, from 123,000 barrels in 1930 to 3.5 million barrels in 1960, as the brewer expanded its reach into 11 western states. Coorss ranking among the nations beer companies advanced accordingly, from 14th in 1959 to fourth by 1969.

How did Coors grow 1,500 percent between 1947 and 1967, with only one product, made in a single brewery, and sold in only ten states? A quality product was certainly one reason for Coorss success. The companys technological innovations, including the development of both the first cold-filtered beer and the first aluminum can in 1959, also placed it in the vanguard of the beer industry. Another reason was a unique marketing ploy that Coors perfected during the 1960s. When Coors entered a new market, it would lead with draft beer only. The company would sell kegs to taverns and bars at a price under that of its lowest competition. Then Coors would encourage the barkeepers to sell the beer at a premium price. Once Coorss premium image was established, the company would then introduce the beer in retail stores. Since Coors spent so little on advertising, the company was able to offer a better profit margin to its wholesalers. These profit incentives to both wholesalers and retailers worked well. Through the 1970s Coors was the leading beer in nine of the 11 western states in which it was sold. In California, the second largest beer market in the country (New York was first), Coors at one time held an astonishing 43 percent of the market.

1970s Through Mid-1980s: Cult Status, Controversies, and Declining Fortunes

Marketing, innovation, and product quality, however, could not account for what was later considered one of the strangest phenomena in U.S. business history. Beginning in the late 1960s and culminating in the mid-1970s Coors developed, without any effort by the company, an unusual reputation as a cult beer. Limited availability created intense demand on the East Coast. Westerners, keen to flaunt their perceived superiority to Easterners, got caught up in a we have what you want syndrome and unwittingly became the companys unpaid advertisers. As a result, Coors virtually eliminated its competition in nine western states. Those nine states provided Coors with all the market it needed to become the fourth largest brewery in the nation.

But all was not well with the company and its enigmatic founding family. The 1960 kidnapping and murder of Adolph III had intensified the clans already strong tendency toward secrecy. Their cautious, elusive nature produced circumspect hiring practices, including polygraphs and sworn statements of loyalty. Outsiders saw these practices as both unfair and as a means of enforcing racial discrimination: the limited numbers of African Americans and Hispanics employed by the company seemed to support this view. Lawsuits were filed alleging discrimination and, more important, a coalition of minority and labor groups organized a boycott, which intensified the negative publicity surrounding the company. The boycott and lawsuits provoked more public scrutiny of the Coors dynasty. A series of articles appeared in the Washington Post in May 1975 documenting Joe Coorss ultraconservative political philosophy. Not only did these revelations exacerbate the boycott, they also influenced the average consumer and generally undermined Coorss market position.

Company Perspectives

Coorsits a name that conjures up an image of cool mountain streams, clear blue skies and all that is inspiring about the Rocky Mountain West.

It is a name associated with an uncompromising commitment to qualitya reputation that began more than 100 years ago and thrives to this day.

It is the name of an ambitious 19th-century pioneer whose humble dream grew into the worlds largest single-site brewery.

But more than anything else, the name Coors is one held dear in the hearts of beer lovers across the country and, increasingly, around the globe.

At first, the Coors familys response was retrenchment and litigation. But when sales dropped ten percent in California in 1975 (at the time that state accounted for 49 percent of total sales), the family changed its tactics. They settled the lawsuits, agreed to a minority hiring plan, and launched advertising campaigns aimed at showing the companys good side. Television advertisements showed that minorities were happily employed in the brewery. Bill Coors took the initiative on environmental issues and proclaimed that the company was well ahead of the industry and the government in keeping the environment clean. The replacement of pull-tabs with pop-down tabs and the first aluminum recycling program were cited as proof of Coorss commitment.

After a decrease in sales through the late 1970s, the company appeared to revive in 1980. Sales volume dropped by one million barrels between 1976 and 1978, bottoming out at 12.5 million barrels before rebounding in 1980 to 13.7 million. Bill and Joe Coors, the third generation of the family to take charge, concluded that their sales problem emanated from their image problem and that they had successfully solved both.

Two separate situations, one in 1975 and the other in 1976, should have signaled that the companys problems went beyond that of image. In 1975 the Coors family was forced for the first time to offer shares to the public to raise $50 million to pay inheritance tax for a family member. The original offering was successful, raising more than $130 million. The stock sold was of a nonvoting class, so the family did not relinquish any control over the company. Analysts suggested, however, that the reluctance with which the company undertook the offering disclosed a disdain for modern methods of capitalization. The second situation involved a Federal Trade Commission ruling, later upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, striking down Coorss strong-arm distribution tactics. Coors refused to sell its product to distributors that the company regarded as unable to handle the beer properly. Once again, many industry analysts remarked that the company exhibited a disdain for mass marketing techniques.

Indeed, Coors remained committed to its founders decidedly outdated idea that a good beer sells itself. In 1975 William Coors claimed, We dont need marketing. We know we make the best beer in the world. Throughout its entire history, Coors had spent far less than its competitors on advertising. In the 1970s, Coorss ad budget amounted to about $.65 per barrel, compared with the $3.50 per barrel promoting the leading beers. Anheuser-Busch and Miller spent billions of dollars on promotion in a market that they continually expanded with new products. Coors, on the other hand, only reluctantly joined the light beer movementintroducing Coors Light in 1978and grudgingly increased its meager marketing outlay. As a result, Coorss 1982 sales volume declined to less than 12 million barrels for the first time in ten years, and the company relinquished its third-place ranking to Stroh Brewing Company. This decline came in spite of the expansion of Coorss distribution area across the Mississippi for the first time in 1981, when the company began selling its beer in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee.

Although Coorss sales increased from $1.1 billion in 1983 to $1.8 billion in 1989, profits declined from $89 million to $13 million, and the companys return on sales dropped from eight percent to less than one percent. Some observers blamed the brewerys entrenched family management, which they characterized as reactionary. But larger industrywide trends also contributed to the low earnings. The beer markets customer base began to stagnate in the mid-1980s, forcing brewers to use margin-lowering tactics to build volume and share. These included brand segmentation, increased advertising, international expansion, and heavy discounting.

Key Dates

1873:
Adolph Herman Joseph Coors forms a partnership with Jacob Schueler to convert a tannery in Golden, Colorado, into a brewery.
1880:
Coors buys out Schueler.
1913:
Company is incorporated as Adolph Coors Brewing and Manufacturing Company.
1916:
Prohibition is enacted into law in Colorado.
1920:
Company changes its name to Adolph Coors Company.
1933:
Prohibition is repealed.
1959:
Company develops the first aluminum can.
1969:
Coors becomes the number four brewer in the United States.
1975:
Company goes public, offering only nonvoting shares.
1978:
Coors Light is introduced.
1981:
Coors distribution area expands across the Mississippi for the first time.
1987:
Coors Brewing Company is created as a beer-focused subsidiary of Adolph Coors Company; Peter Coors is named vice-chairman, president, and CEO of Coors Brewing.
1989:
Keystone and Keystone Light brands make their debut.
1990:
A brewery in Memphis, Tennessee, is purchased from Stroh Brewing.
1991:
Coors beer is now available in all 50 states.
1992:
Coors introduces Zima, a clear, foam-free malted brew; the companys nonbeer assets are spun off to shareholders as ACX Technologies, Inc.
1993:
For the first time, a nonfamily member, W. Leo Kiely, is selected as president of the brewing business.
1995:
The SandLot Brewery opens at Denvers Coors Field; the Blue Moon specialty brand is launched.
1997:
Coors Non-Alcoholic is introduced.
2000:
Peter Coors is named chairman of Coors Brewing and president and CEO of Adolph Coors Company.

Late 1980s into the 21st Century: Changing Times Under Peter Coors

Under the direction of Peter Coors, the brewery eagerly sought to catch up with its larger rivals. In 1987 Peter Coors, a great-grandson of the founder, was named vice-chairman, president, and CEO of Coors Brewing Company, a new beer-focused subsidiary of Adolph Coors Company (Bill Coors remained chairman of the parent company). The new leader was a driving force behind Coorss grounds well of change and continued on that course in the late 1980s into the early 1990s. Under his direction, the brewery completely reversed its advertising course: by the early 1990s, Coors began to spend morein terms of advertising per barrel of beer soldthan its bigger rivals. Coors Light became the companys best-selling beer, Americas third-ranking light beer, and the number one light beer in Canada. The company embraced the concept of brand segmentation and discounting, introducing the economy or popularly priced Keystone and Keystone Light in 1989. Ostensibly offering bottled-beer taste in a can, these beers boosted sales volume, raising overall Coors sales to ten percent of the beer market and winning back the number three spot. But at the same time, such new products took market share away from other Coors brands, including the familys original label, which lost one-third of its sales volume from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s.

While Keystone appealed to the budget-minded beer drinker, other new beverages targeted the higher-margin specialty and boutique markets. The domestic company craftily entered the fast-growing import market with the introduction of George Killians Irish Red, a defunct Irish brand licensed by Coors and produced in the United States. Even without the support of television advertising, the faux import was able to compete with the Boston Beer Company, Inc.s domestically microbrewed Samuel Adams brand for leadership of the specialty beer segment.

In 1992, Coors launched Zima, one of the beer industrys most creative new beverages. The clear, foam-free malted brew created a whole new beverage category. The drinks novelty won it instant popularity that fizzled even before Coors could introduce its first derivative, Zima Gold, in 1995. Analysts noted the telling fact that neither Anheuser-Busch nor Miller, both savvy marketers, followed Coorss lead into the clearmalt category. Zima Gold was pulled from the market after six weeks of disappointing sales.

Peter Coors was not afraid to buck decades of family tradition, chalking up several firsts that had previously been renounced. With Coors running up against its lone brewerys 20-million-barrel annual capacity, Peter floated the companys first long-term debt offering in 1990. Later in 1990, he tried to negotiate a $425 million acquisition of Stroh Brewing, but ended up buying its three-million-barrel-capacity Memphis, Tennessee brewery for about $50 million. If, as Peter Coors hinted to a reporter in a March 1991 Forbes article, the company wanted to mount a challenge to second-ranking Miller Brewing, it would still need to double its U.S. brewing capacity. Meanwhile, in 1991, the companys distribution area covered all 50 states for the first time.

In 1992 Coors spun off the companys nonbeer assetsincluding the high-tech ceramics division, as well as the aluminum and packaging businessesas ACX Technologies, Inc. Coors shareholders received one share of ACX for every three shares of the brewing company. The divestment was considered successful: ACXs sales increased from $544 million in 1991 to $732 million in 1994, and profits multiplied from $1.3 million to $20 million over the same period.

In 1993, Peter Coors broke with 121 years of history by hiring the first nonfamily member to the presidency of the brewing business. His choice, W. Leo Kiely, reflected Coorss new emphasis on marketing. Kiely had been a top marketing executive with Frito-Lay Company, a division of PepsiCo, Inc. The new president was given a straightforward, but arduous mandate: increase Coorss return on investment from less than five percent to ten percent by 1997. A significant cost-cutting move came in the form of a 1993 workforce reduction of 700, which was accompanied by a $70 million charge that led to the companys first full-year loss in ten years.

With the Zima brand faltering, Coors looked for growth from overseas markets and from a new specialty brewing venture. In 1994 the company purchased the El Aquila brewery in Zaragoza, Spain, to manufacture Coors Gold for the Spanish market and Coors Extra Gold and Coors Light for several markets in Europe. That same year Jinro-Coors brewery in Cheong-Won, South Koreawhich was one-third owned by Coorsbegan operation. Coorss partner in the venture, Jinro Limited, ran into financial difficulties later in the decade, leading to the sale of the brewery to another company and ending Coorss involvement. In 1995 Coors entered the microbrewery market with the opening of the SandLot Brewery located at Coors Field in Denver, the home of Major League Baseballs Colorado Rockies. Specialty beers under the Blue Moon label began to be crafted at this 4,000-barrel-capacity facility. In 1997 the company entered into a partnership with Fosters Brewing Group Limited of Australia and the Molson Companies Limited of Canada for the distribution of Coors brands in Canada. The following year Molson gained Fosters stake, giving Molson a 49.9 percent stake and Coors a 50.1 percent stake.

From 1988 to 1997 Coors increased its share of the U.S. market from 8.8 percent to 10.7 percent. Production increased over the same period from 16.5 million barrels to 20.4 million. Coors remained a distant third to Anheuser-Busch and Miller, but it had made strides in improving profitability, in part from an overhaul of what had been a convoluted U.S. distribution system. In 1997 the company reported net income of $82.3 million on sales of $1.82 billion, which translated into a net profit margin of 4.5 percenta significant increase over the previous years figure of 2.5 percent.

By 1999 sales had surpassed the $2 billion mark for the first time, and net income reached $92.3 million. Return on average shareholders equity reached 11.4 percent, a vast improvement over the low single-digit figures of the early 1990s. That year Coors sold 23 million barrels of malt beverages. Surprisingly, a comeback by Zima was a driving force behind the improving results. Zima was repositioning as a refreshing alcoholic beverage, and as an alternative to beerand its taste was altered to make it less sweet and more tangy. Consequently, sales began rising in 1998 and 1999, although they failed to reattain the peak level of 1994. In 1999 Zima Citrus was introduced, offering a blend of natural citrus flavors. Among other late 1990s new product introductions was Coors Non-Alcoholic, a premium brew with less than 0.5 percent alcohol by volume.

In May 2000, on the heels of the record 1999 performance, Peter Coors was named chairman of Coors Brewing Company and president and CEO of Adolph Coors Company, with Bill Coors remaining chairman of the parent company. Kiely was promoted to president and CEO of Coors Brewing. Under the leadership of Peter Coors and Kiely, the company was likely to continue its increasing focus on profitability and growth. With only two percent of revenues being derived outside the United States, the management team was also likely to pursue overseas opportunities in a prudent manner, keeping a keen eye on the earnings potential of such ventures.

Principal Subsidiaries

Coors Brewing Company; Coors Brewing Company International, Inc.; Coors Brewing Iberica, S.A. (Spain); Coors Distributing Company; Coors Energy Company; Gap Run Pipeline Company; Coors Nova Scotia Co. (Canada); Coors Global, Inc.; Coors Intercontinental, Inc.; The Rocky Mountain Water Company; The Wannamaker Ditch Company; Coors Japan Company, Ltd.; Coors Brewing Company de Mexico, S. de R.L. de C.V.; Coors Brewing International, Ltd. (U.K.); Coors Export Ltd. (Barbados); Coors Canada, Inc.

Principal Competitors

Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc.; Bass Brewers; The Boston Beer Company, Inc.; Brauerei Beck & Co.; Canandaigua Brands, Inc.; Carlsberg A/S; Fosters Brewing Group Limited; The Gambrinus Company; Genesee Corporation; Grupo Modelo, S.A. de C.V.; Guinness Ltd.; Heineken N.V.; Interbrew S.A.; Kirin Brewery Company, Limited; Miller Brewing Company; S&P Company; Scottish & Newcastle plc.

Further Reading

Adolph Coors: Brewing Up Plans for an Invasion of the East Coast, Business Week, September 29, 1980, p. 120.

Atchison, Sandra D., and Marc Frons, Can Pete and Jeff Coors Brew Up a Comeback?, Business Week, December 16, 1985, pp. 86 +.

Banham, Russ, Coors: A Rocky Mountain Legend, Lyme, Conn.: Greenwich Publishing, 1998.

Baum, Dan, Citizen Coors: An American Dynasty, New York: Morrow, 1999.

Burgess, Robert J., Popular Keystone Hurt Other Coors Brands, Denver Business Journal, April 30, 1993, p. A1.

______, Silver Bullets: A Soldiers Story of How Coors Bombed in the Beer Wars, New York: St. Martins Press, 1993.

Cloud, John, Why Coors Went Soft, Time, November 2, 1998, p. 70.

Conny, Beth Mende, Coors, A Catalyst for Change: The Pioneering of the Aluminum Can, Golden, Colo.: Adolph Coors Company, 1990.

Coors Bitter Brew, Financial World, April 30, 1983, pp. 31 +.

Coors: The Adolph Coors Story, Golden, Colo.: Adolph Coors Company, 1984.

Dawson, Havis, Hey. Beer. Plan., Beverage World, August 15,1998, pp. 3738, 40, 42.

Fulscher, Todd James, A Study of Labor Relations at the Adolph Coors Brewery, M.A. thesis, Denver: University of Denver, 1994.

Hunter, Kris, Battle of the Beers, Memphis Business Journal, March 13, 1995, p. 34.

Lane, Randall, Splitsville in Coors Country, Forbes, April 10, 1995, p. 52.

Lang, Tarn, Coors: A Report on the Companys Environmental Policies and Practices, New York: Council on Economic Priorities, Corporate Environmental Data Clearinghouse, 1992.

Lubove, Seth, No Fizz in the Profits, Forbes, September 7,1998, pp. 7274.

Melcher, Richard A., Why Zima Faded So Fast, Business Week, March 10, 1997, p. 110.

Ortega, Bob, Zima Goes Cool and Gets Hot, Sells What It Is, Not What Its Not, Wall Street Journal, July 2, 1999, p. B6.

Poole, Claire, Shirtsleeves to Shirtsleeves, Forbes, March 4, 1991, p. 52.

The Pre-Prohibition History of Adolph Coors Company, 18731933, Golden, Colo.: Adolph Coors Company, 1973.

Sellers, Patricia, A Whole New Ball Game in Beer, Fortune, September 19, 1994, p. 79.

Theodore, Sarah, Company of the Year: The Nations Third-Largest Brewer Puts Focus on Results, Beverage Industry, January 2000, pp. 2122.

Time in a Bottle: Adolph Coors Company, Golden, Colo.: Adolph Coors Company, 1984.

Verespej, Michael A., This Coors Is Different, Industry Week, July 22, 1985, pp. 53 +.

April Dougal Gasbarre

updated by David E. Salamie

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Adolph Coors Company

Adolph Coors Company

12th and Ford Streets
Golden, Colorado 80401
U.S.A.
(303) 279-6565
Fax: (303) 277-6564

Public Company
Incorporated: 1913 as the Adolph Coors Brewing and
Manufacturing Company
Employees: 6,300
Sales: $1.66 billion
Stock Exchanges: NASDAQ
SICs: 2082 Malt Beverages

The Adolph Coors Company is the only family-owned brewery in America that was able to survive the late 20th-century consolidation of the U.S. beer industry without relinquishing family control. The regional brewer gained national prominence in the 1960s and 1970s, but only officially achieved national distribution in 1986. In the mid-1990s, Coors ranked a distant third to market leaders Anheuser-Busch Company, Inc. and Miller Brewing Company. By that time, Coors operated the worlds largest brewery at its headquarters in Golden, Colorado, and distributed its 16 branded malt beverages in 17 countries worldwide. Prodded from its conservative management tendencies by stagnant sales and meager profits in the late 1980s, a new generation of Coors family leaders sought to revitalize the business in the early 1990s.

Adolph Herman Joseph Coors emigrated to the United States from Germany in 1868 at the age of 21. After purchasing a Denver bottling company in 1872, Coors formed a partnership with Jacob Schueler in 1873. Although Schueler invested the lions share of the $20,000 necessary to build a brewery in nearby Golden, Coors was able to buy out his partner by 1880. His acquisition inaugurated more than a century of Coors family control.

The fledgling brewerys sales increased steadily in the ensuing decades. In 1887 the brewery sold 7,049 barrels of beer (31 gallons per barrel). Three years later that figure more than doubled, reaching 17,600 barrels. Over the years Adolph Coors slowly expanded his market. By the time he officially incorporated his brewery as the Adolph Coors Brewing and Manufacturing Company, Coorss beer was being distributed throughout Colorado.

Even at this early point in the companys history, the distinctive Coors philosophy was emerging. The main tenets of this philosophy adhered to by three successive generations of Coors beer-makers, each generation further refining the knowledge inherited from the preceding generation were the following: Adolph Coors believed in sparing no effort or expense in producing the best beer possible. To this end, he believed that only Colorado spring water was good enough for his beer. He also commissioned farmers to grow the barley and hops that he needed for his brewing process. The second tenet of the philosophy was that his family always came first, without exception; the Coors family brewery has remained a tight-knit, protective, and almost secretive enterprise. The last tenet was that a good beer sells itself. Until 1980 Coors spent substantially less on advertising than any other brewer.

Prohibition came early to Colorado. In 1916 the states legislature passed a law banning the production and consumption of alcoholic beverages within the state. Obviously, Prohibition was detrimental to Adolph Coorss brewery; however, some business historians would assert that the legislation strengthened the burgeoning company. The obvious changes in product offeringsCoors manufactured near beer and malted milk during this periodwere reflected in a name change, to the Adolph Coors Company. Adolph Coors and his son, Adolph Jr., also used the opportunity to diversify their company, creating what was eventually to become a small-scale vertical monopoly: Coors acquired all that it needed to produce its beer, from the oil wells that created the energy necessary to run the brewery to the farms that grew the ingredients, and from the bottling plant that made the containers to the trucks used for distribution. This expansion was financed entirely with family money.

The repeal of Prohibition did not result in as dramatic a sales increase for Coors as it did for many other producers of alcoholic beverages. Instead, the Adolph Coors Company, under the direction of Adolph Jr. and his two brothers, expanded its market slowly in the 1930s. Their insistence on the use of all natural ingredients and no preservativesin accordance with the brewerys founding tenetsmade wider distribution prohibitively expensive. The beer had to be brewed, transported, and stored under refrigeration, and its shelf life was limited to one month. But if Coors growth and development in the decades following the repeal of Prohibition was less dramatic than that of brewing powerhouses like Anheuser-Busch and Miller, it was no less amazing. For while other regional breweries were squeezed out of the marketthe number of independents shrunk from 450 in 1947 to 120 in 1967Coors grew steadily into one of Americas leading beer brands. Coorss production increased 20-fold, from 123,000 barrels in 1930 to 3.5 million barrels in 1960, as the brewer expanded its reach into 11 western states. Coorss ranking among the nations beer companies advanced accordingly, from 14th in 1959 to fourth by 1969.

So how did Coors grow 1500 percent between 1947 and 1967, with only one product, made in a single brewery, and sold in only ten states? A quality product was certainly one reason for Coorss success. The companys technological innovations, including the development of both the first cold-filtered beer and the first aluminum can in 1959, also placed it in the vanguard of the beer industry. Another reason was a unique marketing ploy that Coors perfected during the 1960s. When Coors entered a new market, it would lead with draught beer only. The company would sell kegs to taverns and bars at a price under that of its lowest competition. Then Coors would encourage the barkeepers to sell the beer at a premium price. Once Coorss premium image was established, the company would then introduce the beer in retail stores. Since Coors spent so little on advertising, the company was able to offer a better profit margin to its wholesalers. These profit incentives to both wholesalers and retailers worked well. Through the 1970s Coors was the leading beer in nine of the 11 western states in which it was sold. In California, the second largest beer market in the country (New York was first), Coors at one time held an astonishing 43 percent of the market.

However, marketing, innovation, and product quality could not account for what was later considered one of the strangest phenomena in American business history. Beginning in the late 1960s and culminating in the mid-1970s Coors developed, without any effort by the company, an unusual reputation as a cult beer. Limited availability created intense demand on the East Coast. Westerners, keen to flaunt their perceived superiority to easterners, got caught up in a we have what you want syndrome and unwittingly became the companys unpaid advertisers. As a result, Coors virtually eliminated its competition in nine western states. Those nine states provided Coors with all the market it needed to become the fourth largest brewery in America.

But all was not well with the company and its enigmatic founding family. The 1960 kidnapping and murder of Adolph III intensified the clans already-strong tendency toward secrecy. Their cautious, elusive nature produced circumspect hiring practices, including polygraphs and sworn statements of loyalty. Outsiders saw these practices as both unfair and as a means of enforcing racial discrimination: the limited numbers of African Americans and Hispanics employed by the company seemed to support this view. Lawsuits were filed alleging discrimination and, more importantly, a coalition of minority and labor groups organized a boycott, which intensified the negative publicity surrounding the company. The boycott and lawsuits provoked more public scrutiny of the Coors dynasty. A series of articles appeared in the Washington Post in May of 1975 documenting Joe Coorss ultra-conservative political philosophy. Not only did these revelations exacerbate the boycott, they also influenced the average consumer and generally undermined Coorss market position.

At first, the Coors family response was retrenchment and litigation. However, when sales dropped ten percent in California in 1975 (at the time that state accounted for 49 percent of total sales), the family changed its tactics. They settled the lawsuits, agreed to a minority hiring plan, and launched advertising campaigns aimed at showing the companys good side. Television advertisements showed that minorities were happily employed in the brewery. Bill Coors took the initiative on environmental issues and proclaimed that the company was well ahead of the industry and the government in keeping the environment clean. The replacement of pull-tabs with popdown tabs and the first aluminum recycling program were cited as proof of Coorss commitment.

After a decrease in sales through the late 1970s, the company appeared to revive in 1980. Sales volume dropped by one million barrels between 1976 and 1978, bottoming out at 12.5 million barrels before rebounding in 1980 to 13.7 million. Bill and Joe Coors, the third generation of the family to take charge, concluded that their sales problem emanated from their image problem and that they had successfully solved both.

Two separate situations, one in 1975 and the other in 1976, should have signaled that the companys problems went beyond that of image. In 1975 the Coors family was forced for the first time to offer shares to the public to raise $50 million to pay inheritance tax for a family member. The original offering was successful, raising over $130 million. The stock sold was of a non-voting class, so the family did not relinquish any control over the company. However, analysts suggested that the reluctance with which the company undertook the offering disclosed a disdain for modern methods of capitalization. The second situation involved a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ruling, later upheld by the Supreme Court, striking down Coorss strong-arm tactics over distribution. Coors refused to sell its product to distributors that the company regarded as unable to handle the beer properly. Once again, many industry analysts remarked that the company exhibited a disdain for mass marketing techniques.

Indeed, Coors remained committed to its founders decidedly outdated idea that a good beer sells itself. In 1975, William Coors claimed that We dont need marketing. We know we make the best beer in the world. Throughout its entire history, Coors had spent far less than its competitors on advertising. In the 1970s, Coorss ad budget amounted to about $.65 per barrel, compared to the $3.50 per barrel promoting the leading beers. Anheuser-Busch and Miller spent billions of dollars on promotion in a market which they continually expanded with new products. Coors, on the other hand, only reluctantly joined the light beer movement and grudgingly increased its meager marketing outlay. As a result, Coorss 1982 sales volume declined to less than 12 million barrels for the first time in ten years, and the company relinquished its third-place ranking to Stroh Brewing Company.

Although Coorss sales increased from $1.1 billion in 1983 to $1.8 billion in 1989, profits declined from $89 million to $13 million, and the companys return on sales dropped from eight percent to less than one percent. Some observers blamed the brewerys entrenched family management, which they characterized as reactionary. But larger industry wide trends also contributed to the low earnings. The beer markets customer base began to stagnate in the mid-1980s, forcing brewers to use margin-lowering tactics to build volume and share. These included brand segmentation, increased (and increasingly malicious) advertising, international expansion, and heavy discounting.

Under the direction of Peter Coors beginning in 1986, the brewery eagerly sought to catch up with its larger rivals. The new leader had been a driving force behind Coorss ground swell of change and continued on that course in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Under his direction, the brewery completely reversed its advertising course: by the early 1990s, Coors began to spend morein terms of advertising per barrel of beer soldthan its bigger rivals. Coors Light became the companys best-selling beer, Americas third-ranking light beer, and the number-one light beer in Canada. The company embraced the concept of brand segmentation and discounting, introducing the economy or popularly priced Keystone and Keystone Light in 1989. Ostensibly offering bottled-beer taste in a can, these beers boosted sales volume, raising overall Coors sales to ten percent of the beer market and winning back the number three spot. But at the same time, such new products took market share away from other Coors brands, including the familys original label, which lost one-third of its sales volume from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s.

While Keystone appealed to the budget-minded beer drinker, other new beverages targeted the higher-margin specialty and boutique markets. The domestic company craftily entered the fast-growing import market with the introduction of George Killians Irish Red, a defunct Irish brand licensed by Coors and produced in the United States. Even without the support of television advertising, the faux import was able to compete with Boston Beer Co.s domestically-microbrewed Samuel Adams brand for leadership of the specialty beer segment.

In 1992, Coors launched Zima, one of the beer industrys most creative new beverages. The clear, foam-free malted brew created a whole new beverage category. The drinks novelty won it instant popularity that fizzled even before Coors could introduce its first derivative, Zima Gold, in 1995. Analysts noted the telling fact that neither Anheuser-Busch nor Miller, both noted for savvy marketing, followed Coorss lead into the clearmalt category.

Peter Coors wasnt afraid to buck decades of family tradition, chalking up several firsts that had previously been renounced. With Coors running up against its lone brewerys 20 million barrel annual capacity, Peter floated the companys first long-term debt offering in 1990. Shortly thereafter, he tried to negotiate the $425 million acquisition of Stroll Brewing Co., but ended up buying its three million-barrel-capacity Memphis, Tennessee, brewery for about $50 million. If, as Peter Coors hinted to a reporter in a March 1991 Forbes article, the company wanted to mount a challenge to second-ranking Miller Brewing Co., it would still need to double its U.S. brewing capacity.

In 1992, Coors spun off the companys non-beer assets including the high-tech ceramics division, as well as the aluminum and packaging businessesas ACX Technologies. Coorss shareholders received one share of ACX for every three shares of the brewing company. The divestment was considered successful: ACXs sales increased from $544 million in 1991 to $732 million in 1994, and profits multiplied from $1.3 million to $20 million over the same period.

In 1993, Peter Coors broke with 121 years of history by hiring the first nonfamily member to the presidency of the brewing business. His choice, W. Leo Kiely, reflected Coorss new emphasis on marketing. Kiely had been a top marketing executive with PepsiCos Frito-Lay division. The new president was given a straightforward, but arduous mandate: increase Coorss return on investment from less than five to ten percent by 1997.

Principal Subsidiaries

Coors Brewing Company.

Further Reading

Burgess, Robert J., Popular Keystone Hurt Other Coors Brands, Denver Business Journal, April 30, 1993, p. A1.

_____, Silver Bullets : A Soldiers Story of How Coors Bombed in the Beer Wars, New York: St. Martins Press, 1993.

Conny, Beth Mende, Coors, A Catalyst for Change: The Pioneering of the Aluminum Can, Golden, Colo.: Adolph Coors Co., 1990.

Coors: The Adolph Coors Story, Golden, Colo, : Corporate Communication Department Adolph Coors Co., 1984.

Fulscher, Todd James, A Study of Labor Relations at the Adolph Coors Brewery, M.A. Thesis, Denver: University of Denver, 1994.

Hunter, Kris, Battle of the Beers, Memphis Business Journal, March 13, 1995, p. 34.

Lane, Randall, Splitsville in Coors Country, Forbes, April 10, 1995, p. 52.

Lang, Tarn, Coors: A Report on the Companys Environmental Policies and Practices, New York: Council on Economic Priorities, Corporate Environmental Data Clearinghouse, 1992.

Poole, Claire, Shirtsleeves to Shirtsleeves, Forbes, March 4, 1991, p. 52.

The Pre-Prohibition History of Adolph Coors Company, 1873-1933, Golden, Colo.: Adolph Coors Co., 1973.

Sellers, Patricia, A Whole New Ball Game in Beer, Fortune, September 19, 1994, p. 79.

Time in a Bottle: Adolph Coors Company, Golden, Colo.: Corporate Communications Dept., Adolph Coors Co., 1984.

updated by April Dougal Gasbarre

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Adolph Coors Company

Adolph Coors Company

12th and Ford Streets
Golden, Colorado 80401
U.S.A.
(303) 279-6565

Public Company
Incorporated: June 12, 1913
Employees: 10,000
Sales: $1.315 billion
Market Value: $1.027 billion
Stock Index: NASDAQ

The Coors family has owned and operated this American brewery for more than 100 years, and Coors has the distinction of being the only family brewery to survive the amalgamation process of the 1960s intact. Coors is also one of very few brewing companies in the enviable position of having never accumulated any long-term debt.

Adolph Herman Joseph Coors founded the business in 1873 after having come to America from Germany in 1868 and settling in Colorado. Coors formed a partnership with Jacob Schueler: Coors contributed $2,000 to the endeavor, while Schueler provided $18,000. In May of 1880 Coors bought out Schueler and, since that time, the Coors brewery of Golden, Colorado has remained within the family.

The Coors family seems always to have had the ability to brew beer that people enjoy. The fledgling brewerys sales increased steadily. In 1887 the brewery sold 7,049 barrels of beer (31 gallons per barrel). Three years later that figure more than doubled, reaching 17,600 barrels. Over the years Adolph Coors slowly expanded his market. By the time he officially incorporated his brewery as the Adolph Coors Brewing and Manufacturing Company, Coors beer was being distributed throughout Colorado.

Even at this early point in the companys history, the distinctive Coors philosophy was emerging. The main tenets of this philosophy have been followed by three successive generations of Coors beermakers, each generation further refining the knowledge inherited from the preceding generation. Adolph Herman Joseph Coors believed in sparing no effort or expense in producing the best beer possible. To this end, he believed that only Colorado spring water was good enough for his beer. He also commissioned farmers to grow the barley and hops that he needed for his brewing process. The second tenet of the philosophy was that his family always came first, without exception. The Coors family brewery has remained a tight-knit, protective and almost secretive enterprise. The last tenet is that a good beer sells itself. Until 1980 Coors spent substantially less on advertising than any other brewer.

Prohibition came early to Colorado. In 1916 the Colorado legislature passed a law banning the production and consumption of alcoholic beverages within the state. Obviously, Prohibition was detrimental to Adolph Coors brewery; however, some business historians would say the company was strengthened by it. During Prohibition the companys name was changed to its present one, the Adolph Coors Company. This change in name reflected a change in Coors product line. From 1916 through 1933 the company produced near beer, with an alcohol content of less than 3%, and malted milk. In addition, it was during this time that Adolph Coors and his son, Adolph Jr., diversified the company, creating what was eventually to become a small-scale vertical monopoly: Coors owned all that it needed to produce its beer, from the oil wells that created the energy necessary to run the brewery to the farms that grew the ingredients, and from the bottling plant that made the containers to the trucks used for distribution. This expansion was financed entirely with family money.

The repeal of Prohibition did not result in a dramatic sales increase for Coors as it did for many other producers of alcoholic beverages. Instead, the Adolph Coors Company, now under the direction of Adolph Jr., expanded its market slowly. While breweries in the East and Midwest were aggressively competing with each other with advertising and sponsorship of sports events, trying anything to increase their market shares, Coors hardly advertised at all. In 1970 Coors spent 600 to 700 per barrel on advertising, while its competition spent as much as $3.50 per barrel. Only in the 1980s has Coors changed its advertising policy.

If Coors growth and development in the decades following the repeal of Prohibition is unexciting compared to that of companies such as Anheuser-Busch and Miller, it remains impressive just the same. In 1933 Coors sold 123,000 barrels of beer. Just 30 years later that number had increased more than 20 times to 3.5 million barrels. Until 1959 Coors had never been among the top 15 brewers in the country. Sales of 1.649 million barrels in 1959 put Coors in 14th place. A year later, Coors reached llth place. By 1969, Coors had moved up to seventh place. In 1973, Coors position had peaked at number four. What makes such growth impressive is that Coors managed its climb to the top when regional breweries were being squeezed out of the market. In 1947 there were 450 independent breweries. By 1967 that number had dwindled to 120.

So how did Coors grow 1500% between 1947 and 1967, with only one product, made in a single brewery, and sold in only ten states? The quality of their product is certainly one reason for Coors success. Through the 1970s Coors was the leading beer in nine of the 11 western states in which it was sold. In California, the second largest beer market in the country (New York is first), Coors at one time held an astonishing 43% of the market. Another reason is a unique marketing ploy that Coors perfected during the 1960s. When Coors entered a new market, it would lead with draught beer only. The company would sell kegs to taverns and bars at a price under that of its lowest competition. Then Coors would encourage the barkeepers to sell the beer at a premium price. Once Coors premium image was established, the company would then introduce the beer in retail stores. Since Coors spent so little on advertising, the company was able to offer a better profit margin to its wholesalers. These profit incentives to both wholesalers and retailers worked well.

However, neither marketing nor product quality can account for what is now considered one of the strangest phenomena in American business history. Beginning in the late 1960s and culminating in the mid-1970s Coors developed, without any effort by the company, a mystique which made it cult beer. Limited availability created intense demand on the east coast. Westerners, keen to flaunt their perceived superiority to easterners, got caught up in a we have what you want syndrome and unwittingly became the companys unpaid advertisers. As a result, Coors virtually eliminated its competition in nine western states. Those nine states provided Coors with all the market it needed to become the fourth largest brewery in America.

Even at the height of the companys success in 1974, there were already signs of impending trouble. Since 1960, when Adolph III was kidnapped and murdered, the Coors have believed that they were the targets of radical terrorists. Over the years the family grew more insulated, cautious and secretive. They were highly careful in their hiring practices, utilizing polygraphs and sworn statements of loyalty. Outsiders saw these practices as both unfair and as a means of enforcing racial discrimination: the limited numbers of blacks and Hispanics employed by the company seemed to support this view. Lawsuits were filed alleging discrimination and, more importantly, a boycott was organized by a coalition of minority and interest groups filed lawsuits alleging discrimination and, more importantly, they organized a successful boycott. The boycott and lawsuits provoked more public scrutiny of the Coors dynasty. A series of articles appeared in the Washington Post in May of 1975 documenting Joe Coors political philosophy and activism. Not only did these revelations exacerbate the boycott, they also influenced the average consumer and generally undermined Coors market position.

At first, the Coors family response was retrenchment and litigation. However, when sales dropped 10% in California in 1975 (at the time that state accounted for 49% of total sales), the family changed their tactics. They settled the lawsuits, agreeing to a minority hiring plan. They began advertising campaigns aimed at showing the companys good side. Television advertisements revealed a rainbow of minorities working happily in the brewery. Bill Coors took the initiative on environmental issues and proclaimed that Coors was well ahead of the industry and the government in keeping the environment clean. The replacement of pull-tabs with pop-down tabs and the first aluminum recycling program were cited as proof of Coors commitment.

After a decrease in sales through the late 1970s, the company appeared to revive in 1980. Barrel sales dropped by one million between 1976 and 1978, bottoming out at 12.5 million before rebounding in 1980 to 13.7 million, 200,000 barrels ahead of 1976. Bill and Joe Coors, the third generation of the family and now in charge, concluded that their sales problem resulted from their image problem and that they had successfully solved both.

Two separate situations, one in 1975 and the other in 1976, should have signaled that the companys problems went beyond that of image. In 1975 the Coors family, for the first time, was forced to offer shares to the public to raise $50 million to pay inheritance tax for a family member. The original offering was successful, raising over $130 million. The stock sold was of a non-voting variety, so the family did not relinquish any control over the company. It was remarked by analysts at the time that the reluctance with which the company undertook the offering disclosed a disdain for modern methods of capitalization. The second situation involved a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ruling, later upheld by the Supreme Court, striking down Coors strongarm tactics over distribution. Coors refused to sell its product to distributors that the company regarded as unable to handle the beer properly. Once again, many industry analysts remarked that the company exhibited a disdain for mass marketing techniques.

With Anheuser-Busch and Miller growing rapidly, Coors believed that it should continue to do that which made the company successful in the first place, produce a beer superior in quality and present it to the consumer with a low-key approach. The two larger companies were spending billions of dollars on promotion in a market which they continually expanded with new products. In 1982 Coors sales dropped under 12 million barrels for the first time in 10 years.

Bill and Joe Coors had run the family business for 20 years, sharing the credit for the companys success and the blame for its reverses. Joe was better known for his politics than his business accomplishments, even though he directed Coors most successful subsidiary. As president of Coors Porcelain Company he created a profitable high technology operation which, among other endeavors, supplied material for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) space shuttle project.

In 1986 Jeffrey and Peter Coors, Joes sons, took over the top positions in the company. Having worked their way up through various aspects of the business, they are responsible for Coors success since 1983. More open to modern business strategies, they have experimented successfully in expanding Coors product line. Coors Light, introduced in 1978, was the second best selling beer in its category in 1986 (behind Miller Lite). Other new products include Herman Josephs 1868, George Killians Irish Red, and Coors Extra Gold. Coors distribution, which expanded slowly through the 1970s, was officially nationwide for the first time in 1986. Also in 1986 Coors opened a huge distribution center in Elkton, Virginia which now receives refrigerated shipments by train directly from Golden, Colorado. Future plans call for a second brewery at this site. Perhaps the place where the recent change in leadership has been felt the most is in market research and advertising. The Coors brothers have, for the first time, hired top level professionals to manage Coors marketing strategy.

Principal Subsidiaries

Advantage Health Systems; Coors Biotech Products Co.; Coors Ceramics; Coors Distributing Co.; Coors Energy Co.; Coors Food Products Co.; Coors Packaging Co.; Coors Transportation Co.; Golden Recycle Co.; Rocky Mountain Water Co.

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"Adolph Coors Company." International Directory of Company Histories. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Adolph Coors Company." International Directory of Company Histories. . Retrieved August 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/books/politics-and-business-magazines/adolph-coors-company