As one of the top-selling flavored malt beverages (FMBs), Mike’s Hard Lemonade has found a niche with consumers. Yet, Seattle-based Mike’s Hard Lemonade Co. is not resting on its flagship brand and recently created new products to extend to new usage occasions, demographics and category niches.

The company says that whether in a grocery store, convenience store, drug store or liquor store, Mike’s Hard Lemonade is the No. 1-performing FMB. Likewise, Chicago-based SymphonyIRI sales data show that the Mike’s Hard Lemonade brand was No. 1 in the FMB segment in supermarkets, drug stores, gas and convenience stores, and mass merchandise retailers excluding Walmart, club and liquor stores for the

52 weeks ending Dec. 25, 2011. During this time period, the brand accrued more than $314 million in dollar sales and made up slightly more than 32 percent of the FMB market share. Compared to the time period the year before, Mike’s Hard Lemonade grew more than 30 percent in dollar sales, according to SymphonyIRI data.

The company plans to continue that growth with new innovations this year. Recently, the company replaced its Mike’s Light Hard Lemonade line with a naturally sweetened and flavored line called Mike’s Lite Hard Lemonade. The innovation was based on consumer requests for a naturally flavored, reduced-calorie offering, explains Andy Horrow, chief marketing officer for Mike’s Hard Lemonade Co.

“Thanks to the breakthrough in sweetener technology that’s out there, we were able to create something that’s never been done before: a great-tasting light beverage that’s full of flavor and also made with 100 percent natural sweeteners,” Horrow says. “That’s a huge win for us, because we know that the light consumer who’s watching their waistlines also tends to be someone who is a little bit older, a little bit more affluent and cares also about what they’re putting in their bodies. The natural sweetener tied to a lower-calorie base was certainly going to be a win for us.”

The new Lite malt beverages are formulated with all-natural fruit flavors and sweetened with cane sugar and the stevia-based sweetener rebiana-A, it says. Mike’s Lite Hard Lemonade also is available in a Cranberry Lemonade variety. The Lite line contains about half the calories as regular Mike’s Hard Lemonade beverages, according to the company.

The company’s flagship brand, Mike’s Hard Lemonade, is available in five flavors: Lemonade, Cranberry Lemonade, Limeade, Black Cherry Lemonade and Raspberry Lemonade. Although its Lemonade flavor is the brand’s most popular variety, Black Cherry Lemonade is the brand’s No. 2 most popular flavor, Horrow says.

The brand’s strongest selling season is summer, so seasonal varieties encourage consumers to drink Mike’s Hard Lemonade year-round. “Our seasonal lineup is something that really drives great business for us,” Horrow says.

The brand offers seasonal flavors including spring seasonal Strawberry Lemonade, Winter Blackberry and Pink Lemonade. The brand’s Pink Lemonade variety is available at the end of summer and the beginning of fall and is tied to the company’s relationship with The Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Outside of the Mike’s Hard Lemonade and Mike’s Lite Hard Lemonade brands, the company offers three other brands, one of which made its debut last month. The newest brand is Mike’s On The Rocks, a line of 8 percent alcohol-by-volume mixed drinks that come in 16-ounce cans in four-packs.

“Mike’s On the Rocks is really answering a very specific trend right now in the marketplace … and that is the fact that consumers’ tastes are changing; people are looking for more intense flavor experiences,” Horrow says.

Available in Hurricane and Long Island Iced Tea varieties, Mike’s On The Rocks has seen “unbelievable” acceptance from retailers, distributors and consumers, he says. When the company conducted consumer sampling, 71 percent of consumers said they would purchase Mike’s On The Rocks, he says.

“Our products appeal to all kinds of people of legal drinking age,” Horrow says. “In this case with On The Rocks, we are targeting a group of younger guys of legal drinking age up to their early 30s, who are enjoying the taste of mixed drinks, getting together with friends and looking to kick it up a notch, if you will, in the evening occasion. But we also know people are hanging out in their houses, so think about Mike’s On The Rocks as a great drink for their pregame.”

Mike’s Hard Lemonade Co. also offers Mike’s Harder Lemonade and Mike’s Harder Punch in Mango Punch, Fruit Punch, Grape Punch and Orange Citrus Punch flavors, which contain 8 percent alcohol by volume and are packaged in 16-ounce cans.

In the 4 to 5 percent alcohol range, the company also offers Mike’s Hard Mango Punch and The Classic Margarita by Mike’s in Traditional Lime, Raspberry and Peach flavors. Recently, the company added a Strawberry flavor to the Margarita line.

In addition to being packaged in glass bottles, The Classic Margarita by Mike’s, Mike’s Hard Lemonade and Mike’s Hard Black Cherry Lemonade are available in cans for use in outdoor occasions. BI