Maev Martin talks to Shane O'Sullivan, customer director - ROI Off Trade at Molson Coors Beverage Company, about their new beverage hub, moving beyond beer, the sustainability of their Irish and UK operations, and the impact of Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) on the alcoholic drinks market.
In predicting the impact that MUP may have on the Irish alcohol market, Molson Coors have taken learnings from other markets where they operate with MUP already in place, such as Scotland and Wales.
MUP was introduced in Scotland back in May 2018 and there have been changes in consumer habits.
“We are seeing more consumers opt for more premium brands and shifting away from larger packs into smaller ones across the beer and cider sector,” says Shane.
“The shift in consumer buying patterns and behaviour to more premium drinks has resulted in growth in sales for local convenience retailers.”
In Ireland, Molson Coors Beverage Company has responded to the new legislation by developing a portfolio of products designed to meet shopper preferences when MUP is introduced.
“With our previous experience in other markets, we have recognised that shoppers will want more choice across the medium and smaller sized packs and will require larger packs less frequently,” he says.
“In response to this, we have created new packs across our portfolio of brands to offer consumers the greatest range of choice.
We are also continuing to build our premium and craft beer and cider offer, with brands including Staropramen, Franciscan Well, Blue Moon, Cobra, Aspall Cyder and Rekorderlig cider.”
In August this year, Molson Coors Beverage Company launched a Beverage Hub, a dedicated team to support its growing portfolio of brands in emerging, fast-growth categories such as RTDs, adult soft drinks and premium spirits.
“We moved beyond beer back in 2015, with our partnership with Rekorderlig, and then moved further into the cider category with our acquisition of Aspall in 2018, so this is a strategic journey that we have been on for a while,” says Shane.
“We wanted to help our customers meet the changing tastes of consumers and enable them to provide the perfect drink for every occasion. While we will always stay true to our beer heartlands, we signalled our intent when we re-branded to become Molson
Coors Beverage Company in 2019 and that journey has accelerated for us over the past couple of years," he says.
"We launched our Western European Beverages Hub to take us into new places on the bar and instore, by building and partnering with exciting brands in high growth categories. The Beverage Hub was created in response to the growing number of consumers reaching for ready-to-drink options, premium spirits and aspirational adult soft drinks and opening up those growth opportunities for our customers,” he adds.
As part of the launch of their Beverage Hub, Molson Coors Beverage Company have partnered with some new brands in response to new consumer demands.
“We now represent an exciting portfolio including Tarquin’s Gin, Jimmy’s Iced Coffee, Lixir Drinks, Miami Cocktail Company, Bodega Bay hard seltzer, and have launched our own hard seltzer brand Three Fold, while also continuing to grow our core portfolio in the beer and cider category,” he says.
“We have just started out with our exciting portfolio in Ireland, kicking off with some strong listings of Lixir Drinks and Tarquin’s range in the on trade. We are now sharing our portfolio and longer-term intent with Irish retailers and demonstrating how we can serve them and their shoppers more completely. Our products have been well received by our customers and they are generating real excitement among consumers for this category. We believe that this market has a lot of potential for growth and we have great quality drinks with fantastic brand stories to tell.”
Hard Seltzers And RTD Cocktails
In recent years, the alcoholic drinks industry has witnessed significant growth in the hard seltzer/RTD sector and Molson Coors has been quick to capitalise on these new trends.
“Hard seltzer sales have increased in value more than eight-fold in the space of 12 months in the UK [IRI, MAT 19 June, Value Sales Total Outlets] and we expect this trend to be mirrored in the Irish market over time, as consumers and retailers alike embrace this rapidly growing entrant to the RTD market,” says Shane.
“We got into the category early through our exclusive distribution partnership with premium hard seltzer brand Bodega Bay last year, and this year we expanded our presence by launching Three Fold, a new brand with mainstream appeal which taps into the growing hard seltzer opportunity in the UK and Ireland. Three Fold, which is backed by our largest ever brand investment in a new category, comes in three fruity variants – Red Berries, Tropical and Citrus – and is naturally vegan- and gluten-free, containing 93 calories per 330ml can.”
Molson Coors recently announced a £25 million investment in its Burton brewery, which includes a new canning line dedicated
to hard seltzers.
“This investment ensures that we are ready to help retailers meet the growing demand in the UK [IRI, MAT 19 June, Value Sales Total Outlets], Ireland and beyond.”
Ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails are well- placed to tap into the growing demand from consumers seeking more variety to experiment with new flavours. In 2020, the RTD category was the fastest growing in alcohol globally [ISWR analysis, December 2020] and the category has continued to perform well in the UK, and increasingly so in Ireland.
“We expect this to continue in the months ahead as people look to try unique flavour variations to enjoy at home, without investing in all of the ingredients to hand-create different cocktails,” he says.
“We have teamed up with Miami Cocktail Company to roll-out their range of award-winning, hand-crafted organic cocktails in Ireland. The range, which includes Margarita Spritz, Paloma Spritz, Mimosa Spritz, Sangria Spritz and Bellini Spritz, is crafted with premium organic ingredients, and each 250ml can contains 110 calories.”
Strong Sustainability Credentials
Molson Coors has demonstrated strong sustainability credentials over the past year.
Following the introduction of recyclable cardboard large-format multipacks in 2020, in April 2021 it announced the removal of plastic rings and the introduction of a fully recyclable and sustainable cardboard sleeve for can multipacks for all major brands.
According to the company, the move would see Molson Coors hit its target to remove all single-use plastic from the packaging of its major brands by the end of April.
“We achieved this goal in April of this year, removing single-use plastic from across our major brands,” he says.
“Since 2019 we have removed more than 700 tonnes of single-use plastic from our operations through changes to packaging and minimising waste.
“As part of our global packaging targets, which include ensuring 100% of our packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable and making all of our production sites zero waste to landfill by 2025, we produced two million low-carbon bottles for our Staropramen range. We reduced the carbon footprint of each bottle by up to 90%, and significantly increased the recycled content of each bottle by using up to 100% recycled or waste glass – up from 75% previously used in our green glass bottles. Across our UK and Ireland territory, all of our production sites are zero waste to landfill.”
100% Renewable Electricity
Molson Coors has set an ambitious 2025 goal to lower absolute emissions by 50% within its direct operations as part of its Imprint 2025 goals. The company has also established a target to achieve a 20% reduction in carbon emissions throughout its value chain in the same timeframe. “These goals have been verified by the Science Based Targets Initiative, making us one of the few leading companies to align our direct emissions-reduction goal with the 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature increase target recommended by the Inter- Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),” says Shane.
In March 2021, Molson Coors began to produce the beers it sells in Ireland, such as Carling, Molson Canadian and Miller Genuine Draft, using 100% renewable electricity when they signed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with RWE, one of the world’s leading renewable energy companies.
“We use electricity generated from the Tween Bridge wind farm in South Yorkshire, which produces the same amount of electricity for us as around 25,000 households a year,” he says.
“The move puts us ahead of our target to reduce our operational emissions by 50% by 2025 in the UK. Alongside this, our investment in CO2 recovery systems means we can also recover and reuse up to 47 tonnes of CO2 from the fermentation process each day," he adds.
Our largest UK brewery in Burton, which produces many of the brands we sell in Ireland, has been almost entirely self-sufficient in CO2 production since 2018, removing around 2,350 tonnes of emissions from our operations each year,” Shane concludes.