Molson Coors helping to drive U.K. on-premise recovery

The U.K.’s on-premise, battered by the pandemic, is clawing its way back to 2019 levels.

With restrictions lifted and drinkers finding their way back to their favorite pubs and restaurants, the beer is flowing in ways not seen since before the pandemic disrupted the world – and Molson Coors on-trade performance is proof, says Martyn Cozens, U.K. on-trade director for Molson Coors.

“Clearly, the U.K. on-premise has been through what’s best described as a trauma,” he says. “But it is recovering and the Molson Coors portfolio is in a strong  position, with our premium and mainstream brands outperforming in their respective categories.”

Great Britain’s  on-trade’s overall sales volume has recovered to 87% of 2019 levels, according to CGA data. Meanwhile, Molson Coors’ brands have recovered to 96% of their 2019 volume.

Driven by the success of brands like Carling, Coors, Staropramen, Pravha and, in particular, Madrí Excepcional, Molson Coors has grown share of beer to over 24% of the on-trade business through May, making it the No. 1 brewer in the on-trade according to year-to-date data from CGA GB.  

Strong roster

The company is seeing a strong performance from beers across a wide spectrum of segments, with three draught lagers in the top 10 and strong representation across all three of the U.K.’s key categories: core, premium 4% and world beer.

Carling has strengthened its position as the nation’s top core standard lager. In the last 12 weeks through May 21 according to CGA, it’s 21% bigger than Foster’s and Carlsberg combined. “It’s still the No. 1 beer brand in Great Britain,” Cozens says. “As the mainstream lager category continues to come under pressure, Carling is far and away the biggest brand and growing share in a category that still accounts for the largest volume share of sales in the on-trade.”

Coors is pulling away from Amstel and has overtaken Stella Artois to become the No. 5 brand in Great Britain’s on-trade, according to CGA. “We’ve developed a really strong position for Coors,” Cozens says. “The recent rebrand we did mid-pandemic, where we refreshed all of the key touchpoints like the plaque, handles and fonts has worked really well with customers and consumers.”

Newcomer Madrí Excepcional broke into the top-10 draught lagers and has been a hit with drinkers and a powerhouse addition to pubs’ lineups.

The brand’s launch, despite happening in the middle of the pandemic, has been a boon for the company, and it is already a top-10 world lager. It roared out of the gate in October, hitting more than 4,500 accounts; now it’s available in more than 9,500 venues. With a new ad campaign just launched, the brand is set to attract even more drinkers.

“I think the world beer category was ready for something fresh and new,” says Cozens. “Madrí’s story and its touchpoints have connected really well with consumers and most importantly, it’s a brilliant beer.”

Taking care of our people

While drinkers returning to pubs certainly has contributed to growth, Cozens cites another factor: how Molson Coors took care of its people during the pandemic.

“We looked after our people in the lockdowns, accessing the right support from government and investing to keep people in jobs and prioritize their safety and wellbeing has really paid dividends. When the on-trade opened back up our team came out of the blocks hard and fast with huge goodwill and intent to deliver for our business,” he says. “The continuity and trust my team have built with their customers, I believe makes a real difference to our performance”

Looking ahead

Carrying that momentum through to the rest of 2022 will be challenging, against a backdrop of high inflation and geo-political uncertainty, but Cozens is cautiously optimistic for Molson Coors’ U.K. on-trade business.

“We’ve had consistent growth in our on-trade business for the last six or seven years. Pre-pandemic, it was growing and consistently gaining share,” he says. “What I’ve seen post-pandemic is that momentum building pace, with our absolute focus on helping our customers to rapidly rebuild their businesses and meet the challenges head-on.”