Golden Wing, a barley milk made from Coors barley, debuts

Molson Coors’ push beyond the beer aisle has coupled it with much-celebrated products like La Colombe coffee and ZOA energy drink. 

Now the company is tapping one of beer’s primary ingredients to introduce its newest innovation, Golden Wing Barley Milk, a non-alcohol plant-based milk that will sit in the dairy aisle.  

Made with five all-natural ingredients, including non-GMO barley stock that comes from the fields of Coors’ barley farmers, Golden Wing is launching this month at Sprouts locations in California, in May at Whole Foods grocery stores in Southern California, and is available via its website.

“The plant-based milk category is growing rapidly, and it’s largely fueled by innovation,” says Brian Schmidt, Molson Coors’ marketing manager for non-alcohol products. “Whether it’s almond, oat or barley, innovation is providing alternatives for consumers seeking the benefits of plant-based milk.” 

With more vitamins and less sugar than cow’s milk, plant-based milk has elbowed its way into the mainstream in recent years, growing dollar sales by more than 5% since 2016, according to IRI. Meanwhile, cow’s milk and soy milk have both lost a combined nearly 6 points of share to plant-based milk options over the same time period, IRI shows. 

Of the plant-based options, grain-based milk has gained 18 points of share since 2016, at the expense of seed- and nut-based milk.

“Golden Wing drinkers are consumers who care about what they put into their bodies. They care enough about the planet to know dairy’s harmful impact, and they’re confident enough to know what they want to drink,” Schmidt says.

Pouring a khaki color, Golden Wing has a malty sweetness reminiscent of milk leftover in a bowl of cereal. With a simple ingredient bill of water, barley, sunflower oil, pink Himalayan salt and shiitake mushroom extract, the milk tastes natural without being overly sweet or astringent.

“We want to let our ingredients speak for themselves. Golden Wing keeps it simple, delivering on exceptional flavor with barley leading the way,” Schmidt says. Golden Wing contains 130 calories and, compared to 2% milk, it has 60% less sugar, 50% more calcium and twice as much Vitamin D.

Molson Coors’ entrance into the growing plant-based milk market was born out of a partnership with beverage incubator L.A. Libations. By monitoring the market and working with Molson Coors’ barley team, L.A. Libations helped develop and test Golden Wing, and determined there’s a market for it with consumers, Schmidt says. 

“Early feedback from retailers and consumers shows that Golden Wing has strong potential,” he says.  

Molson Coors is taking a phased rollout approach with the brand to ensure it has sufficient time to gauge the market and make adjustments as needed to put Golden Wing in a position to succeed, Schmidt says.

Schmidt also addresses the elephant in the beer aisle: Molson Coors has a 236-year brewing legacy. But milk? 

“We know beer, and because of that we know barley,” he says. “With our background and expertise, we believe this will be the next major evolution in the plant-based milk category.”