Summer’s kick off means consumers will be reaching for more drinks that tickle the tastebuds. And it’s no surprise they’re reaching for options that burst with fruit and juice flavor.
“The pandemic gave people time to explore their at-home mixology creds, and they came away with a great appreciation for flavorful drinks,” says Jamie Wideman, vice president of innovations for Molson Coors Beverage Company.
Studies have shown flavor is the number one purchase-driver for consumers, with the flavored-alcohol beverage marketing growing 10% in 2021 to $1.9 billion, according to IRI.
And Molson Coors is all in on flavor. Its U.S. hard seltzer portfolio, featuring Vizzy and Topo Chico Hard Seltzer, offer unique takes on fruit-forward flavors; earlier this year, Molson Coors introduced Blue Moon LightSky Tropical Wheat, which offers drinkers citrus and pineapple flavors and a tropical twist from four different hops.
And next week it’s set to release Simply Spiked Lemonade in four flavors (strawberry lemonade, watermelon lemonade, blueberry lemonade and traditional lemonade), its latest collaboration with The Coca-Cola Company, a beverage Wideman says will be “the drink choice of summer.”
Wideman sat down with Beer & Beyond to share her thoughts on all things flavor. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Flavor is a big part of innovation and has emerged as a big part of Molson Coors’ innovation strategy. How did the industry get here?
There were a lot of forces at work to get us here, and we can attribute some of it to the pandemic. Think about where consumers usually get inspiration to try new things: from travel, dining out and the like. But all of that was off the table. People were buying their beverages online and learning how to make cocktails at home. They were thirsty for something new and different, and they came away with a great appreciation for flavorful drinks.
For Molson Coors, we’re focused on delivering a quality experience with the right balance. We’re very intentional about how we craft our products. You’re not going to see us put out flavors just for the sake of doing it. We develop flavors that consumers absolutely love and just make sense.
Simply Spiked Lemonade is a great example of that. Lemonade is sweet, but it's also tart. Consumers love the taste of Simply, and we wanted to be sure consumers had the same experience when drinking Simply Spiked Lemonade. So having those principles around authenticity of flavor is one of the things that our portfolio has been focused and disciplined about. And I have to say, Simply Spiked Lemonade really nails it. It’s delicious.
We hear a lot about consumer demand for “better-for-you” or low-calorie beverages like hard seltzers. But full-flavored – aka higher-calorie – beverages are growing. Why do you think that is? How is Molson Coors responding?
I think there’s a lane for both. You have consumers focused on better-for-you and low-calorie beverages, but then you also have consumers who want full-flavor products. There can be an occasion for both and there can be consumer overlap; it’s not one or the other. It’s a yes/and.
Where does Simply Spiked fit into Molson Coors’ portfolio and plans? What does the future of Simply Spiked look like?
Before Simply Spiked, we didn’t have a scale player in the full-flavor set. And, frankly, there wasn’t a lot of innovation in the space. There were two main players, so there was an opportunity for us to tap into what consumers are craving, which is the bold flavor with a brand that has a real point of view with real juice.
As for the future of Simply Spiked, we’re focused on rolling out Simply Spiked Lemonade next week, but there is a lot of juice left to squeeze on where we go next.
How is Molson Coors continuing to innovate in 2022 and beyond?
We have an amazing innovation insights team that works with us to ensure we’re on the cutting edge of consumer trends, so you will continue to see us chart new paths into spaces that Molson Coors isn’t playing in yet. And we’ll continue to break through in spaces where we are playing, bringing a point of difference in a way that, if we’re not first, we’re better than what’s currently offered.
One of our bigger ambitions is to build brands more people want to hang out with. We’re going to develop products and flavors that reach more people, especially diverse consumers. We want to make sure we are building products not just for new consumers, but with them.
Simply Spiked Lemonade officially launches Monday, June 6.