Cut-rate Corona cans coming this summer?

Constellation Brands appears to be discounting Corona family 12-packs of cans in markets across the country heading into summer.

The importer has dropped prices on Corona Extra, Corona Light and Corona Premier by about $2 per case, positioning them slightly below bottles, according to reports from markets across the U.S. and Beer Marketer’s Insights.

While the breadth and extent of the discounting is not yet clear, reports from the field suggest it has already or will soon hit in markets across the Midwest, Southwest and Southeast U.S. BMI reports the discounts could extend nationwide.

The price drop appears targeted for Corona Extra, Corona Light and Corona Premier and is slated to run at least through July, BMI reported. “Constellation seeks to get more of its Corona volume into cans,” which represent less than 10% of total Corona sales, per the BMI report.

The company also is offering incentives for distributors to boost volume, which “though still growing nicely, is a bit below targets heading into peak selling season,” BMI reported.

Constellation Brands spokeswoman Maggie Bowman declined to comment.

But the company’s CEO, Bill Newlands, may have hinted that price cuts were imminent at an industry conference last week in Chicago.When asked how Constellation Brands would compete if sales of premium lights bounced back, he said, “We have strong brand franchises, and we’re happy to compete in the marketplace on a very fair and even basis.”

Corona, for reference, has long been priced at a premium to brands such as Bud Light, Coors Light, Miller Lite, as well as super-premium brands like Michelob Ultra. The BMI report notes that the pricing moves would bring Corona down to or below Michelob Ultra prices.

The discounting comes as Corona importer Constellation Brands attempts to prop up Corona Extra and Corona Light, each of which has shed volume this year. Corona Extra is off 0.4% in sales volume, while Corona Light is down 14.6% year-to-date through May 11, per Nielsen all-outlet and convenience data. That's after Corona Extra finished 2018 down 4% and Corona Light dipped 11.5%.

The Corona brand franchise, however, closed out last year up 7.5% in sales volume and is up again this year 1.6% on strength of Corona Premier, which launched broadly last year, and Corona Familiar, which significantly expanded distribution in 2018.

Premier sales are up 119.6% year-to-date, though it’s beginning to slow (+17.5% over the four weeks ending May 11, per Nielsen) as the brand laps broad distribution gains in 2018. Familiar, meanwhile, is up 33.3% year-to-date and 14.7% over the most-recent four weeks.

Corona this month is rolling out another line extension, Corona Refresca, which executives have said is intended to reach more female drinkers.