MillerCoors adds Sol: Q&A with Gavin Hattersley

Molson Coors and Heineken announced today that MillerCoors later this year will start distributing, marketing and selling the Mexican import Sol in the United States.

“The addition of Sol to our portfolio marks an important step in our journey to get to growth,” MillerCoors CEO Gavin Hattersley said in a note to employees and distributors. “Previously, we were not able to participate in the fastest-growing segment of the beer industry. Now we can.”

Behind the Beer News caught up with Gavin to talk more about it.

So what does the addition of Sol mean for MillerCoors?

For some time now, we’ve heard from many quarters – including inside MillerCoors – that one of the things holding us back was the lack of a Mexican import. Given the sustained growth we’ve seen with Mexican brands, that’s a fair point. MillerCoors explored ways to get into that part of the business over the years, including looking at buying a Mexican craft brand, but there was no clear or scalable way to do it. You can’t, after all, create an authentic Mexican brand out of thin air. With the addition of Sol we can – finally – capitalize on the fastest-growing part of the business.

Tell us a little bit about Sol.

For starters, Sol is a very sessionable lager. It’s also a great brand with a great story. It was first brewed in 1899, so it has real heritage. And it has an interesting positioning that’s all about standing for freedom and independence. It’s a rich, authentic brand with a lot of potential, and we can’t wait to see what we can do with it.

OK, but Sol has seen some sales challenges. Why do you believe you can get it growing?

Lots of reasons. As I said, we see great potential based on its provenance, heritage, positioning and more. We’re also going to bring more investment and focus to Sol than it’s seen in a very long time. If we can combine the equity in the Sol brand with our sales and marketing teams’ expertise and our distributors’ know-how, there’s no question in my mind we can change Sol’s trajectory.

Many MillerCoors distributors already carry Mexican imports from Constellation and Heineken USA. Won’t Sol cannibalize sales of those brands – or of other MillerCoors brands?

We expect the volume to come from a number of sources, but our intention is to differentiate Sol so that it drives incremental growth for our portfolio and our distributors’ portfolios. A wide range of U.S. consumers are looking for an authentic and refreshing Mexican beer, and we think Sol is just the brand to deliver.

How does this fit in with the commitment by MillerCoors to get to growth by 2019?

When we said we were going to get to growth, we knew there was no single solution for achieving that. We knew it would involve revitalizing our brand marketing and raising our game in sales execution, but we also knew it would require innovation, a smart approach to craft, brand/craft additions and more. The beer industry is constantly changing and if we’re going to compete and grow, we need to capitalize on those changes. Finding a way to participate in Mexican imports was always a top priority.

So … any other plans?

Stay tuned.

Thanks, Gavin.