MillerCoors kick-starts entrepreneur's cold invention
As summer heat grips much of the nation, a budding entrepreneur is offering beer drinkers a new way to help keep their beer cold through the very last sip.
"I was at an outdoor barbecue and saw people dumping out the last few sips of beer and I thought to myself, how do I change this?" said Curt Peters, the creator of the Chill Puck.
Billed as "the next generation ice pack," the Chill Puck is a hockey-puck-like disc that is molded to fit the bottom of standard-sized beer cans. Consumers keep it the in the freezer and attach it when they are ready to use. The Chill Puck is designed to stay cold for more than an hour at room temperature.
Like many hopeful entrepreneurs, Peters turned to Kickstarter.com to fund his start up. The original goal was $7,500, but the project got off to a lukewarm start when it launched.
"We started with a modest goal and thought 'hey if people like it and want to get involved, cool,'" said Peters. "There wasn't much more than a $1,000 investment behind it at that point so there was really nothing to lose."
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Things turned around quickly when a beer brand best known for its ice-cold advertising took an interest.
For nearly a decade, Coors Light, the MillerCoors-owned brand, which is the second best selling beer in the country behind Bud Light, has made an association with "cold" the heart of its marketing campaigns. In addition to billing itself as the "The World's Most Refreshing Beer," the company also has tweaked its packaging to include such innovations as "cold-activated" cans and bottles. The labels on the cold-activated products turn from white to blue when the beer is cold. Seeing an opportunity to inject itself into a conversation on cold beer, the company ponied up $10,000 to support the project.
"We saw the Chill Puck on Kickstarter, thought it was awesome and knew right away we wanted to help them out," said Amanda DeVore Moehr, a brand manager at Coors Light. "Ultimately, Chill Puck and Coors Light have the same mission: Coors Light is all about Rocky Mountain cold refreshment and Chill Puck is all about helping people enjoy the coldest beer possible. It's a natural fit."
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Equally as important as the donation, the company put Chill Puck's Kickstarter campaign on the Coors Light Facebook page, exposing it to the brand's nearly 3 million Facebook fans.
"As soon as Coors Light put us on their Facebook page, it just started exploding," Peters continued. "It's been amazing."
Ultimately more than 1,000 backers contributed a total of $41,759 to Chill Puck's Kickstarter campaign.The investment allowed Peters to double his initial production order, which arrived shortly before the July 4th holiday. The company shipped 1,500 pre-orders in advance of the holiday weekend, Peters said.
"We pushed the launch to get these out by the Fourth of July so people can use them and show their friends," he said. "The summer is a great test to see if people will like it."
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For now, Peters is selling the Chill Puck for $7.99 online at Chillpuck.com, but he hopes to someday to make it available at other retailers.
As for Coors Light, DeVore Moehr said the brand is not looking to invest in more startups, but it's not turning a cold shoulder to other marketing possibilities.
"We're always looking for opportunities in spaces that are relevant to fans of Coors Light and which help us convey our commitment to cold," she said.
—By CNBC's Tom Rotunno. Follow him on Twitter @TomRotunno.