Madrí Excepcional expands to U.K. off-trade after banner debut in pubs

Madrí Excepcional has won over pub-goers since it launched in the U.K. in 2020. Now the European-style lager is expanding its reach with a national launch in the off-trade next month.

“It’s been a huge sensation, and there was a lot of demand from consumers and off-trade customers to bring it to retail,” says Kevin Fawell, U.K. off-trade sales director for Molson Coors Beverage Company. “There’s been a real buzz and excitement for this innovation and product launch. Everyone’s been keen to be part of it.”

“Everyone” includes major grocery stores in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Madrí Excepcional also will be sold through online channels, including Amazon, Ocado and, eventually, Molson Coors’ own e-commerce platform, Revl. It will be available in four- and 12-packs of 330-mililiter bottles and four- and 10-packs of 440-mililiter cans, as well as 660-mililiter single bottles.

Madrí Excepcional, made by Molson Coors in collaboration with La Sagra Brewery, a craft brewer based near Madrid in which Molson Coors made an investment in 2017, arrived in British pubs in the fall of 2020 and flourished, despite nationwide pandemic restrictions that kept many drinkers away. But the crisp, golden-colored 4.6% alcohol-by-volume lager quickly won over consumers.

Since its launch, it’s exceeded its distribution targets, netting placements in more than 6,000 on-trade accounts, more than doubling expectations. It has gained a toehold in the fast-growing world lager category, establishing itself as a top-10 seller, according to IRI, while earning the third-highest rate of sale per outlet in the category, according to CGA.

And while the beer has won some prestigious awards, including a gold medal at the International Brewing Awards and a silver at the World Beer Awards, it’s the reception from consumers that’s been most rewarding, says Ryan McLaughlin, Molson Coors’ marketing controller for premium beers in Western Europe.

“Drinkers in the U.K. have shown a desire to try new beers, and the success of Madrí Excepcional plays into this trend of premiumization, especially as people spent more time at home during the pandemic,” he says. “They’ve shown a willingness to treat themselves, and to pay more for brands that bring a higher quality.”

The success of Madrí Excepcional in the bars, pubs and restaurants – even throughout the pandemic – was fueled by consumers gravitating toward lighter beers that combine flavor and refreshment, McLaughlin says. And it’s been helped along by its eye-catching branding, featuring a dapper, bearded gentleman – a “Chulapo,” representing the free spirt of Madrid – surrounded by a bold red logo.

“The way it turns up in pubs is very distinctive, and the new packaging is going to stand out in stores,” McLaughlin says, noting its signature glasses appear to be a favorite of drinkers who want the branded glassware at home. (“We don’t condone stealing them, but it’s a testament to the branding and the product,” he says.)

The nationwide rollout will be supported by one of Molson Coors’ largest investments ever for a world beer, with a £7.5 million ($10 million) marketing campaign that includes advertising on TV, out-of-home and social media. About half of that will be dedicated to in-store components.

Based on its initial success in the U.K. and Ireland, the brand already is weighing expanding into other markets, Fawell says.

“We’ve seen success in the on-trade, and we think Madrí Excepcional will be a huge play for us in the off-trade,” he says.