Josh Davis has been around the beer industry long enough that not much surprises him.
Then came Topo Chico Hard Seltzer.
“Seeing the success of this brand from the launch has been nothing short of amazing. I've been in the beer business about 20 years now, and this is the best brand launch that I've ever seen,” says Davis, on-premise chain sales manager for Molson Coors Beverage Company. “It's continued to just drive momentum and really grow.”
Inspired by the popular 125-year-old Topo Chico Mineral Water, which has a huge following particularly in the southwest, Topo Chico Hard Seltzer burst out of the gates when it launched in March in 16 markets. And it’s continued to fly off the shelves in key markets, winning a 2 share of the segment for the year and setting the stage for its national launch in January.
In Texas, where it jumped to a 20 share its first week, Topo Chico Hard Seltzer – which Molson Coors produces, distributes and markets as part of a brand authorization agreement with The Coca-Cola Company – has maintained momentum, earning a 9 share year-to-date through the week ending Dec. 5, according to IRI multi-outlet and convenience store data. It’s been buoyed by strong name recognition and a loyal fan base of Topo Chico Mineral Water.
“In Texas, the mineral water is a huge cult favorite. Once consumers started hearing about Topo Chico Hard Seltzer, the excitement started building,” says Jill Newman, brand director for specialty and imports at Andrews Distributing in Fort Worth. “We had retailers who put up multiple displays on the floor, multiple pallets in one individual account. And in a lot of instances, we actually had to limit our order quantities during the summer in order to supply all of our accounts with enough inventory.
“It's definitely helped us take over more than 50% of the seltzer share in Dallas-Fort Worth area,” she says.
Texas is Topo Chico Hard Seltzer’s greatest success story, but it’s far from the only one.
In Colorado, it’s won a 5.6 share of hard seltzer. In Oklahoma, a 4.4. share. In hyper-competitive Chicago, it’s tallied a 3.6 share. And nationally, it holds a 2 share despite being available in less than a third of the country.
Based on its early results, Molson Coors thinks it can be a top-three hard seltzer. Not only that, but consumers keep coming back for more, says Alan Bremerkamp, Molson Coors’ director of marketing for hard seltzers.
“Topo Chico Hard Seltzer has the strongest repeat rate of any hard seltzer in the last two years,” he says. “That to me screams people not only love us, they love the liquid and are coming back time and time again for it.”
Topo Chico Hard Seltzer has worked to differentiate itself through the brand’s intriguing personality, character-filled marketing and unique flavors like strawberry guava and exotic pineapple, Bremerkamp says. That’s drawn a positive response from consumers on social media, even in markets where people are unfamiliar with the mineral water.
“We kept hearing things repeated back to us that were really exciting. They liked our crisp taste that sets us apart from other hard seltzers. They like the clean finish and the unique flavors,” he says. “People want taste and flavor, and Topo Chico Hard Seltzer delivers that.”
With the national launch imminent, Topo Chico Hard Seltzer has kept busy. It’s planning a margarita flavor variety pack in 2022, as well as a Canadian launch next summer. And last month it released bottles of its popular strawberry guava flavor in select markets, where the brand hopes it can make a splash in the on-premise.
The bottles, designed to stand out against slim cans, have been a hit with retailers, as well, Newman says.
“Originally we thought that the bottle was going to be mostly an on-premise focus, but as soon as our national account team heard about the bottles, they started sharing that with a lot of their buyers,” she says. “As you can imagine, our orders jumped dramatically over the last couple weeks to really fulfill the excitement around the chains that are going to be driving some big displays to the floor, as well as independent accounts.”
With Topo Chico Hard Seltzer entering markets where it lacks name recognition, Bremerkamp understands the brand has work to do introducing itself to consumers. It’s planning to more than double its media budget in 2022, it’ll launch its first national TV ad and will increase sampling events.
“Our job is to do the heavy lifting to build awareness. There’s a sea of sameness out there, and we’re doing everything we can to separate ourselves from it,” he says. “One thing we do know is that once people try Topo Chico Hard Seltzer, they come back for more.”