BUFFALO, NY (BUSINESS FIRST OF BUFFALO) -- One year after buying the Labatt USA brand and the Genesee Beer operations, North American Breweries is poised for a new round of growth and more brand building.
And, that growth could translate well for Labatt USA, which is headquartered in downtown Buffalo.
So says, North American Breweries chief executive officer Rich Lozyniak.
Labatt is hoping its latest beer, Blue Light Lime, which debuts in early April could spearhead that growth.
"We're always looking for something that is complimentary to our existing brands," Lozyniak said.
Blue Light Lime may be that vehicle.
"There is a strong interest in lime-flavored beers right now," said Peter Bodenheim, North American Breweries vice president of marketing. "We've had great success selling it into retailers and bars, so we're hoping this provides a great opportunity to build our Labatt business."
North American Breweries acquired the Labatt USA operations as well as Rochester's Genesee Brewery last year, through a deal orchestrated by its parent company, KPS Capital Partners LP.
What it acquired was, combined, the nation's ninth-largest brewery and in Upstate, two dominant beer brand names - Labatt and Genesee. North American Breweries is on a pace to produce 2.2 million barrels of beer this year, with Labatt accounting for 1.5 million of those barrels.
While the company's manufacturing base is in Rochester, downtown Buffalo serves as the marketing, sales and sales support hub. One year ago, 16 people worked in Labatt's Key Center headquarters. Now, the company has 37 workers in Buffalo and could be adding more, Lozyniak predicted.
Overall, North American Breweries has 470 workers, up from the 420 it employed in early 2009.
Thanks to an aggressive marketing campaign, Genesee brand beers are seeing a resurgence in Rochester, where its double-digit growth now makes it one of the top sellers in the Flower City.
"Remember, Genesee was in a decline for the past 25 years and they hadn't introduced a new brand since they brought out Honey Brown in the mid-'90s." Lozyniak said.
In addition to Rochester, the Genny brand beers are gaining market shares in such diverse places as Brooklyn and Gainesville, Fla. where new marketing campaigns are underway.
Besides Blue Light Lime, North American Breweries will be bringing out other new brands this year including a stout and Irish Red Lager under the Dundee label.
"We are building up a lot of momentum," Lozyniak said.
Meanwhile, in the Buffalo area, Labatt continues build local brand loyalty by supporting a number of events and organizations. That includes Buffalo Place Inc.'s "Thursday at the Square" concert series, the annual pond hockey tournament in the Erie Basin Marina and forging new relationships with the Buffalo Sabres, Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Bisons.
"It's all about building up our brand effectively," Lozyniak said.