Coors hopes '60 Minutes' will boost sagging sales


GOLDEN, Colo. -- The Adolph Coors Brewing Co. hopes a favorable CBS '60 Minutes' televised report will help it regain a competitive position in the 'suds war' between the nation's top beer makers.

The 109-year-old, family-owned brewery, hard-hit by sagging sales the past few years, believes it is on the verge of a sorely needed turnaround. This is mainly due to favorable public response from a Coors segment featured on TV's '60 Minutes.'


'We have been deluged with favorable mail,' said chairman Bill Coors. 'Sixty Minutes will not give the public reason to buy our product, but it will remove any reason for not buying it.'

Union organizers called the '60 Minutes' segment a whitewash.

Coors, ranked sixth behind industry giants Anheuser-Busch and Miller, which collectively control 55 percent of the beer market in America, has been steadily losing ground in the so-called beer wars since a bitter 1977 labor dispute.


The brewery's latest financial report shows net sales for the 12-week second quarter ended June 13 were $227,940,000, compared to $243,984,000 for the same period a year ago, down 6.6 percent.

Net income for the first 24 weeks of the year decreased 19.9 percent from more than $21 million during the first half of 1981. Shipments dropped 10 percent from 6.1 million to 5.5 million barrels.

The labor unrest led to a union representing brewery workers being booted out of the Coors plant and a national boycott of Coors products. Compounding Coors' problems were charges by union organizers of racial and sex discrimination.

Union representatives also criticized Coors' employment policies, particularly its controversial polygraph test requirement, and its legal authority to conduct searches of employees.

Then in 1979 Phillip Morris Tobacco Co. dealt Coors another devastating blow with its purchase of Miller, sending the beer industry into a frenzy with the marketing of Lite Beer.

Coors, which at that time had only one product -- its light-bodied premium brew -- suffered a significant decline in sales.

Mike Wallace and a '60 Minutes' news crew came to Golden last spring. The edited version of Wallace's two-day visit, telecast in September, suddenly gave a renewed sense of optimism to Coors' executives and production workers.


Robert A. Rechholtz, Coors executive vice president of sales and marketing, claimed the TV program 'vindicated' the company of widening allegations.

'No amount of money could buy that kind of honesty and credibility,' Rechholtz said of the '60 Minutes' segment. 'I can't attribute any increased sales to the show, but I can attribute an improved image of Coors. 'It marked the beginning of a new period of exciting growth for this brewery.'

Said Bill Coors, 'I would say we were vindicated totally. Our image had been damaged by false propaganda.'

Denver television news critics wrote several days following the telecast that Coors walked away smelling like a rose. One viewer in a letter to CBS opined that the telecast was a Coors commercial paid for by the network.

Ken Debey, former business representative of the decertified Brewery Workers Local 366, said he and several other union officials were interviewed by a '60 Minutes' crew for about an hour and none of their comments were used in the segment.

'Dave Sickler, national coordinator of the boycott got only 90 seconds on the show,' Debey said. 'The damn thing was a whitewash.'

So where does the company go from here?

'We've been caught between the battle of the giant breweries long enough,' Rechholtz said. 'We are going to get involved in the beer wars with some new weapons.'


'In our new campaign, we tell why Coors is different. It's the only beer brewed from pure, untreated water. People want a drinkable product and Coors uniquely fulfills that need.'

Coors is planning to expand its existing 20-state marketing area next year and to zero in on new markets such as blacks, Hispanics and women.

This comes at a time when the brewery is expected to suffer its third straight year of sagging sales and amid recent layoffs of 781 workers.

But Rechholtz emphasized there already is evidence of the company's turnaround with the growing public acceptance in test market areas of Coors' new 'super premium' Herman Joseph beer and its 'George Killian' red ale, which is packaged as a 'psuedo import' and aimed largely at college campuses.

Latest Headlines