Molson Coors turns to innovation

Daniel MacEachern
Published on October 7, 2011
Molson Coors Brewing Co. chairman Andrew Molson speaks Thursday at a St. John’s Board of Trade luncheon at the Bella Vista. Molson shared with members and guests some of his family’s entrepreneurship principles which have guided the company for 225 years. — Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

With weakening demand for beer — due largely to a slower economy and changing consumer preferences — Molson Coors Canada is focusing on innovation to stay dominant, the company’s chairman told the St. John’s Board of Trade.

Andrew Molson — a seventh-generation descendant of John Molson, who founded the brewer 225 years ago — told the board luncheon that the beer industry has been letting wine and other alcoholic beverages “share our place a little bit at the table” but beer is going through a necessary renaissance.

“Consumers are increasingly interested in learning about beer, the various types of beer, the use of beer in food pairing, ingredients used in all those things,” he said.

In fact, that interest is leading many beer drinkers away from the giant companies to smaller microbreweries — that’s why Molson has set up a division called Six Pints, to develop and market specialty beers in Canada.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, Molson told the audience, Molson Coors has built its market share to 67 per cent, which he later acknowledged is at least partly due to the Molson’s merger with Coors — whose Coors Light is the most popular beer in the province, said Molson — in 2005. But it’s still the company’s strongest market share in Canada, he said.

“It’s by far the strongest market in Canada,” he said. “I attribute it to a long-term commitment to this community, and respect for the people here making the beer for them.”

Newfoundland and Labrador’s aging population — some consumers tend to gravitate towards wine as they get older — doesn’t worry Molson, he said.

“I see a very vibrant business community here in St. John’s, and I see a demand for jobs in places like Labrador City,” he said.

“They’re having trouble building homes with all the demand right now. These are young people looking for jobs in places like Labrador City, so it’s not just an aging community. But there is a challenge for our brewing industry to focus on re-establishing beer as a drink of choice for Canadians, so we have to reaffirm beer’s place in the hearts and minds of Canadians.”

Six Pints is the culmination of plans that began in 2005 when Molson bought Ontario microbrewery Creemore Springs and last year when it bought British Columbia’s Granville Island brewery.

“So we have two established microbreweries, specialty beers, in the portfolio underneath Six Pints,” he said.

“Six Pints also works on innovation and development.”

The ongoing challenge, he said, is to come up with new products without neglecting the core brand that has been in Canada for more than two centuries.

“The people that work at Molson Coors consider it an exciting challenge every day to find ways to inspire the consumer to think about their product,” he said.

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