Not Your Father’s Root Beer – Growth Strategies for Small Brands

an adult root beer float

One of the most popular products to hit the beverage industry in recent history came in the form of Not Your Father’s Root Beer (NYFRB). This beer-slash-soda brand has taken the market by storm, as it represents one of the newest trends in alcohol, “malternatives” aka alternative malt beverages (usually artificially flavored). Social media has been in a tizzy as consumers frantically search for it on the shelves of their local retailers. The consumer is truly engaged with the product and shares updates about where to find it and what it taste likes.   Instagram feeds flooded with photos of the bottles with captions such as “YES! Finally, was able to get my hands on some. Now to see if the hype is true” and “I tried it and like it! #NotYourFathersRootbeer.” One NJ liquor store posted: “Not Your Father’s Root Beer is back in stock. Limit one six-pack per person. Don’t wait it will be gone in a day or two.”

But why has this brand been so successful and what can we learn from their product launch? Not Your Father’s Root Beer could be a case study for smaller brands on how to think when it comes time to talk of expansion:

#NYFRB on Instagram

1.      Powerful Partnerships

To leverage themselves in the world of craft breweries, NYFRB’s creator, Small Town Brewery, has actually joined forces with some not-so-small partners. NYFRB has quietly united with Phusion Projects, a Global Innovative Alcohol Company that is no stranger to the world of sweet & trendy alcoholic beverages. Though you may not have heard of Phusion, you have more than likely heard of their controversial booze brand Four Loko.  An energy-slash-malt beverage in a brightly colored can, Four Loko was made famous by headlines that called out the danger of the high caffeine & alcohol levels, especially for underage drinkers (#Lokonation).  But all that negative press didn’t hurt their bottom line. They tweaked the recipe as per government guidelines, removing excessive caffeine, and still produce and distribute it today.

2.      Distribution

Another reason that NYFRB has mushroomed into a most sought-after product has to do with their distribution.  Many small brands and craft breweries struggle with national distribution. According to Small Town Brewery founder Tim Kovac, they have partnered with Pabst Brewing Co. to meet their increasing distribution demands nationwide: In a press release, Pabst said they expect the “craft” beer to be available nationwide before we ring in the New Year.

3.      Hanging On To The “Craft” Halo

It has been important for Small Town, despite partnering with beverage industry giants, to continue to market themselves as a “craft” beer. According to a Nielsen study, the word “craft” motivates beer purchases, especially amongst young men. The study concluded: “35% of adults 21 and older say they’re more interested in trying an adult beverage labeled craft. Among men 21-24, that figure jumps to 46%.” Since Small Town Brewery’s customers are mainly Millennials, this strategy seems to be paying off.

NYFR is a very successful example of a beverage trend we will see, and drink, more of in the future: Hard Soda. Following in the footsteps of hard lemonade, iced tea, and other “alcopop” beverages, MillerCoors has announced that they will be launching their own brand of hard sodas in early 2016. The line will debut with two flavors, Henry’s hard ginger ale and Henry’s hard orange soda, as a way for MillerCoors to target Gen Xers who grew up drinking soda.


It seems the success of hard soda will hugely depend on which target audience marketing pursues.  NYFRB is staking their claim with men and women alike, unlike Zima, the clear soda-like malt beverage marketed as an alternative to beer in the 90’s, and different than Bud Light’s Lime-A-Rita family of products (which mostly courts the female market.)

Only time will tell which hard soda strategy really pays off.



Photo Credits:,,

Instagram Photo Credits: @craftydogwc, @johnanthonysnyc, @cynthia_ann68, @pezyy, @peekaboobmore

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