Raving fans and distinct brands drive Molson Coors’ hard seltzer strategy

When Topo Chico Hard Seltzer launched in 16 markets earlier this month, it sent shockwaves through the market, grabbing a 3.2 share in its first week on the market nationally and accounting for 20% of the hard seltzer sales in Texas over that period.

Its early success is a testament to the portfolio approach Molson Coors Beverage Company has adopted to bolster its position in the highly competitive hard seltzer landscape.

With this year’s additions of Topo Chico Hard Seltzer and Proof Point, along with new flavors and offerings from Vizzy Hard Seltzer and Coors Seltzer, Molson Coors is making inroads in its ambitious plan to win a 10 share of the U.S. hard seltzer market by the end of the year.

“We have lofty goals, but we have the brands, we have the innovation and we have the investment to get there and achieve our goals,” says Matt Escalante, senior director for above-premium for Molson Coors. “Each brand fills a different position in the market, and we’re seeing how that plays out in real time.”

The portfolio strategy is already proving effective. Molson Coors ended 2020 with nearly a 4 share in the hard seltzer segment with Vizzy and Coors Seltzer. It has built upon that so far in 2021, driving its share up more than 50% to a 6.8 share, according to the data from market-research firm IRI for the week ending April 11.

Molson Coors likewise has ambitious goals in Canada, where it recently launched Vizzy and Coors Seltzer; its U.K. portfolio includes Three Fold, and the nation’s sales leader, Bodega Bay.

“The hard seltzer category is constantly evolving, so we want to get out in front of the trends and be a leader in what’s happening,” says Escalante. “We are moving to get ahead of where the consumer is to offer true innovation in the hard seltzer category. That’s something you’ll see more of from our brands in the future.”

Bringing in Topo Chico Hard Seltzer, in partnership with The Coca-Cola Company, and its built-in legion of loyal fans of its legendary mineral water, is indicative of that strategy.

Upon its launch this spring, demand for the brand was so high it outstripped supply, leading to temporary challenges in certain markets. Though it’s available today in limited markets, Topo Chico Hard Seltzer has plans to eventually expand distribution nationally.

Vizzy, meanwhile, has surpassed expectations since debuting last spring. The brand, which emphatically touts its differentiation point of being the first hard seltzer that contains antioxidant vitamin C, shot out of the gates and maintained strong momentum throughout the year. Now firmly established on shelves, it’s generated buzz for its new Variety Pack #2 and Vizzy Lemonade, which ranks as the second-fastest turning lemonade hard seltzer in the U.S., Escalante says.

“Vizzy is cranking,” he says, pointing to the brand’s top-10-ranked variety pack growth that is outperforming competitors.

With three new variety packs, including new flavors coming this summer, joining its original lineup, Vizzy is poised to continue its growth, Escalante says.

Vizzy also has spawned a dedicated following of legal-age drinkers on social media, who call themselves the #VizzyGang.

“The Vizzy Gang sprung up quickly as people adopted it as their seltzer. They said, ‘This seltzer is mine’ right from the get-go. It shows the potential we still have with this brand,” Escalante says. The brand, he notes, has yet to fully tap its potential, with U.S. household awareness at about 20%.

Vizzy was followed to market by Coors Seltzer, which has built-in name recognition and equity from parent Coors that Molson Coors thinks has room to grow. Coors Seltzer has appeared alongside Coors Light in several marketing plays this year, which link the hard seltzer to a key calling card of Coors Light: refreshment.

Proof Point, Molson Coors’ newest offering, began rolling out in key markets in March. Made with real premium spirits and available in four flavor combinations, the brand is poised to resonate with audiences that overindex in the spirits category, but underindex in hard seltzers.

Now in market with distinct offerings, Escalante says Molson Coors is making headway in a crowded category where brands have to stand out to grow.

“We have an amazing group of brands that each bring something unique to the category. These are the horses we need to win,” Escalante says. “We couldn’t be better positioned than we are with the brands we have.”