updated 7/31/2008 1:32:05 PM ET 2008-07-31T17:32:05

MillerCoors LLC is ending testing of its trio of craft styles of top-seller Miller Lite so it can rethink the brand, the company told distributors this week.

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The so-called Miller Lite Brewing Collection didn’t perform as well as expected in test markets including Baltimore, Minneapolis and Charlotte, N.C., spokesman Julian Green said Thursday.

The company had high hopes for the brand, which tweaks Miller Lite into various styles of craft beers such as wheat, amber and blonde ale.

In April, it said testing was so strong it would release the collection of beers nationwide by September. But by mid-June it said the release would be delayed for more testing.

The collection aimed to latch onto the fast-paced growth of craft beers, which are rising faster than overall beer sales and also command higher prices.

The goal, MillerCoors has said, was to build on the popularity of low-calorie Miller Lite, go after craft drinkers and woo new ones.

But Green said testing showed the company had to build consumer awareness to help people separate Miller Lite from the Brewing Collection.

“We need to kind of look at improving the positioning,” he said.

No time frame for restarting the testing was given.

This marks one of the first brand announcements for the newly created MillerCoors, a joint venture between SABMiller’s Miller Brewing and Molson Coors Brewing Co., the brewer of Coors Light. The two companies started combining their North American operations this month. Their goal is to save on costs and better compete against industry-leader Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc.

On Thursday, Miller’s parent, SABMiller announced its trading update for its first quarter.

North American sales of key brands like Miller Lite fell 2 percent and worldwide lager consumption was down 1.6 percent as consumers pulled back on spending in some countries.

Sales to retailers of Miller Lite in North America were down 1.6 percent while sales of Miller High Life were up less than 1 percent.

Sales of Milwaukee’s Best fell 5.5 percent while sales of the company’s higher-priced brands like Miller Chill, Leinenkugel’s and Peroni Nastro Azzurro, were up 8.1 percent.

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