MillerCoors plans its biggest investment yet in Italian import brand Peroni Nastro Azzurro for 2018, aiming to capture a bigger piece of a market moving toward pricier beer.

Peroni, an easy-drinking Euro pale lager, is riding a wave of momentum this year, helped by the widespread debut of its stylish white, 11.2-oz. slim cans.

Sales of the brand are up 14.9 percent on an 18.9 percent rise in volume year-to-date through Nov. 25, according to Nielsen all-outlet and convenience data. It has accelerated in the last four weeks, up 55.2 percent in sales dollars and 94.1 percent in case volume, per Nielsen.

Bolstered by its successful House of Peroni campaign, which included three experiential pop-up retail installations held in New York, Los Angeles and Miami, MillerCoors is seeking to continue the brand’s upward trajectory for 2018 with more efforts aimed at underscoring Peroni’s high-end, aspirational brand bona fides, says Pete Marino, president of Tenth and Blake, the craft and prestige import division of MillerCoors.

“The excitement and momentum behind Peroni is at an all-time high in the U.S.,” he says. “I think we’ve done a nice job of growing the right way in influencer markets, generating intrigue around the brand and pull from consumers. Now it’s time to step on the gas.”

The ramp-up already has started. The brand has dedicated sales teams on the ground in 10 markets today, up from just three last year. It plans to have investment in some 37 U.S. markets next year, including major efforts in four metro areas: Chicago, Denver, Phoenix and Tampa, where it will add brand ambassadors tasked with hand-selling the beer into select prestige accounts.

Because of its aspirational and sophisticated brand positioning, as well as the sessionability of the 5.1-percent alcohol-by-volume beer, Marino thinks now is the time to strike with a more-robust advertising and marketing campaign for Peroni, which MillerCoors owns the exclusive U.S. rights to import.

“Just look at the Mexican import category, which is on fire,” Marino says. “Brands like Peroni have that same badge value that consumers are responding to and coming back to in some ways.”

While on a much smaller volume base, Peroni has outpaced Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Stella Artois and Heineken NV’s Heineken in both dollar and volume percentage growth in 2017, per Nielsen.

And although Peroni is not expected to overtake either beer in terms of sales anytime soon, Stella continues to edge into the mainstream, a fact cemented by Anheuser-Busch’s decision to give it its own Super Bowl ad in 2018.

“Stella is a great brand, but the bigger it gets, the more mainstream it has to get,” Marino says. That migration could help Peroni carve out a bigger piece of the European import market, where some drinkers prize beers for their authenticity and heritage.

MillerCoors’ plan for Peroni isn’t predicated solely on luring drinkers from other imports; rather the brand is bringing over drinkers of wine and spirits with a message rooted in luxury.

“We plan to give it the attention, focus and resources into making it everything it can be,” Marino says of Peroni. “We see a lot of runway ahead.”