One of the hottest hard seltzer brands in the U.S., Topo Chico Hard Seltzer, is expanding nationwide in January 2022, Molson Coors Beverage Company said Wednesday evening at its annual distributors’ convention.
Topo Chico Hard Seltzer started out hot when it launched in March in 16 markets, grabbing a 20 share in Texas in its first week. Since then, it’s continued on a torrid pace, ascending to the No. 6 slot in the segment, according to IRI multi-outlet and convenience store data for the week ended Sept. 5.
“Topo Chico Hard Seltzer came out of the gate extremely strong when we launched last spring, so we couldn’t be more excited to finally bring this legendary hard seltzer to people across the country,” said Matt Escalante, senior director of seltzers at Molson Coors. “We constantly hear drinkers asking when Topo Chico Hard Seltzer is coming to their market. Now we have an answer for them.”
With four distinct flavors — Strawberry Guava, Tangy Lemon Lime, Exotic Pineapple and Tropical Mango — Topo Chico Hard Seltzer blends purified sparkling water, a gluten-free alcohol base and natural flavors, with minerals added for taste. It is inspired by Topo Chico sparkling mineral water.
The company sees Topo Chico Hard Seltzer as a key part of its strategy to win a 10 share of the hard seltzer segment by the end of the year.
While the segment has slowed over the summer led by declines among the largest players in the space, Molson Coors’ brands, including Vizzy Hard Seltzer, have grown at an impressive pace. The company’s seltzer portfolio is up 158% over the most-recent 13-weeks, per IRI. That’s compared to just 4.4% growth that the segment has posted.
“We expect (demand) to be so big that we are starting to build inventory now to ensure we have enough supply for a massive launch,” Escalante said at the event in Las Vegas. Molson Coors produces, distributes and markets Topo Chico Hard Seltzer as part of a brand authorization agreement with The Coca-Cola Company, which acquired the Topo Chico brand in 2017.
Boosting packaging capabilities
Molson Coors views hard seltzer as a key part of its portfolio now and in the future, and it is investing tens of millions of dollars into a new building at its Fort Worth brewery to bolster its ability to package hard seltzers and other beverages. It’s the latest in a string of investments aimed at transforming the company’s capabilities to meet consumers’ changing preferences.
The new facility, which is slated to be built adjacent to its sprawling Fort Worth campus starting next year, is designed to automate variety pack assembly — key packs for growing brands such as Vizzy and Topo Chico Hard Seltzer — increasing efficiency and generating significant savings for the company.
It is scheduled to be complete in late 2022.
“This is about gaining control of our own destiny,” says Jeff Lahl, vice president of environmental health and safety and technical services for Molson Coors. “We’ve all seen the massive growth behind brands like Vizzy and Topo Chico Hard Seltzer, and we’re investing in our capabilities to continue to expand. We anticipate running a tremendous amount of hard seltzers through these lines in the future.”
The investment also may be used for future brands the company develops as part of its ambition to expand its portfolio.
In Fort Worth, where hard seltzers are brewed and packaged on site but shipped to third-party vendors for final pack assembly, the new 150,000 square-foot facility will help alleviate shipping costs and improve time to market, Lahl says. While Molson Coors will continue to use third-party vendors, taking part of the process in-house will help the company ensure a smoother supply of inventory to market.
“We have been clear about our ambition to grow our above premium portfolio and this project will help us continue to do just that,” said Brian Erhardt, chief supply chain officer at Molson Coors. “The Fort Worth expansion will add to our capabilities, generate substantial cost savings and equip us to meet consumer demand for our popular hard seltzer brands and future innovations.”
The project represents the next step by Molson Coors to grow its portfolio of above-premium beverages, especially hard seltzers. Last year, the company invested in capital projects to expand its U.S. hard seltzer production capacity by about 400%. And this year, it quadrupled Canadian hard seltzer production and invested another $35 million in the U.K. to make a range of upgrades, including adding its first hard seltzer canning line.