Rahul Goyal: Molson Coors’ big bets starting to pay off

With positive results up and down its portfolio, Molson Coors Beverage Company is converting more doubters into believers, Rahul Goyal, the company’s chief strategy officer, said Thursday at a beer industry event in Chicago.

Speaking at the Beer Insights 2022 Conference, organized by Beer Marketer’s Insights, Goyal laid out the reasons for optimism.

“Molson Coors is a ‘show-me story,’ and you want to see success before you believe. And the fact is that we are making progress” on the company’s revitalization plan, Goyal said.

Calling company leaders, including CEO Gavin Hattersley, “stewards” of an organization with a nearly 300-year-old heritage, Goyal pointed to Molson Coors’ measurable progress in growing its core brands in the U.S. and Canada.

Last quarter, in the U.S., both Coors Light and Miller Lite grew net sales revenue, notching their best combined industry share in five years. In Canada, Coors Light grew share of the entire beer category.

Meanwhile, Goyal said, the company is silencing critics with the success of its above-premium portfolio, which achieved the highest percentage of the company’s revenue last quarter, accounting for more than a quarter of global net sales revenue.

Leading the way are the company’s portfolio of hard seltzers, with Vizzy and Topo Chico Hard Seltzer both sitting in the segment’s top 5 in the U.S. Combined, they hold a 10.2 share of the segment, according to IRI multi-outlet and convince store data for the week ended May 1.

“While hard seltzer growth in the industry has slowed significantly, we believe the segment is here to stay, and we’ll continue to drive strong brands with unique points of difference,” he said. “And our strategy is working with both Topo Chico and Vizzy delivering share growth in each quarter since launch.”

Is it enough?

“You don’t score unless you take the shot, and we are making meaningful progress on not just taking shots, but scoring,” Goyal said.

The company’s beyond-beer portfolio also is turning heads and has quickly become an integral part of Molson Coors’ business since the revitalization plan went into effect in 2020.

ZOA, the energy drink franchise backed by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, has rocketed into the category’s top 12 despite just launching last year. Meanwhile, the company is bullish on its first full-strength spirit, an American blended whiskey called Five Trail, which took home double gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition last month.

Other partnerships are offering new pathways to growth, as well.

Molson Coors is set to launch Simply Spiked Lemonade in partnership with The Coca-Cola Company next month. Its work with La Colombe Coffee Roasters has given it a further foothold beyond the beer aisle. And its joint venture with Canadian cannabis company HEXO has given it four of the top 10 cannabis-derived beverages in Canada, while introducing American consumers to its CBD beverage Veryvell.

“These are not plans and ambitions anymore, these are actual points on the board,” Goyal said.

‘Blurred lines’

Whether on its own or through partnerships with entrepreneurs like Johnson or companies like The Coca-Cola Company, Molson Coors is seeking to evolve its portfolio alongside consumers, who are driving major changes across the industry, Goyal said.

“The consumer wants products and beverages based on occasions, and that is blurring the lines between alcohol and non-alcohol choices,” he said.

And beverage companies of all stripes are seeking pathways to growth: “We each have strong capabilities to leverage and are going to find ways…to drive growth.”

When asked about Molson Coors’ ability to respond to the growth of ready-to-drink alcohol beverages , Goyal pointed to Superbird, a tequila-based, ready-to-drink paloma developed by beverage innovator CKBG that Molson Coors is distributing in the U.S. He also noted that Molson Coors’ Canadian hard seltzers are offered with a spirits base.

He also addressed how the company has responded to challenges, such as the pandemic, supply-chain issues and inflation.

“While we did not predict all the external issues over the last couple of years – who could have? – we’ve learned that ‘stuff happens,’ but we pivot and focus and execute the plan,” he said. “Rest assured I am not calling it mission accomplished —nowhere near it — but we are calling it progress.”