Molson Coors On a mission to be ‘First Choice’

Molson Coors currently has a market share of around 20% of the UK beer market and a portfolio that includes Carling, the UK’s best-selling lager for three decades, as well as Coors Light, Cobra, Grolsch, Doom Bar, Worthington’s, Caffrey’s, Singha and a range of speciality beers, plus Aspall Cyder. With off trade sales growing across Molson Coors’ portfolio the company is set on achieving its ambition to be ‘First Choice for Consumers and Customers,’ including in the wholesale sector, Scott Bayliss joined in May as the company’s Wholesale Director. He spoke to Wholesale Manager:

“My role is to ensure our wholesale customers have the right products and knowledge to satisfy their customers. Working alongside my dedicated team, my role is fast-paced and varied. I split my time across all areas of the business and take the time to engage with our customers to truly understand their needs.”

Scott says Molson Coors’ team structure is “instrumental” in allowing them to deliver on the vision of being ‘First Choice for Consumers and Customers.” He leads a multifunctional selling team, which is helping grow the entire wholesale channel as consumer preferences change:

“Shifts in consumer tastes are primarily responsible for driving growth across our portfolio of brands. Customers are demonstrating an increasing preference for premium and craft options, as well as low or noalcohol products. Craft beer has almost doubled in value in the last two years, and the market for low and no-alcohol drinks has grown by forty per cent in the same period.”

But while the growing popularity of premium and craft beers is attracting attention, Scott points out that Molson Coors’ flagship brand Carling has been the UK’s best-selling lager since the 1980s and the canned lager market remains very important:

“Our familiar favourites are fundamental for sales growth. Carling continues to strengthen its position as the UK’s number one lager, outperforming both Foster’s and Carlsberg.”

Scott says Molson Coors’ ambition to be ‘First Choice for Consumers and Customers’ is a philosophy that guides everything they do, including how they advise customers how to use their core brands to best effect:

Cider is also a growing part of the Molson Coors portfolio, says Scott:

“The latest addition to our cider family is Aspall Cyder, which we acquired in early 2018 and recently rolled out in the off trade. Cider sales have improved in both value and volume growth, with trade up 2.8% year on year. With Rekorderlig also in our portfolio it’s an important market for us, and these brands have quickly grown cider into one of our core categories.“

Popular speciality beers in the Molson Coors family include Sharp’s Doom Bar’s Amber Ale, Blue Moon, Staropramen and Cobra, and they are particularly relevant at this time of year:

“Demand for these products increases over the festive period, when customers are more willing to treat themselves to a premium product.”

Scott thinks the craft beer movement has had a profound effect on the UK beer market, starting in the on trade and spilling over into retail sales:

“We’re seeing consumers experimenting with new flavours and styles of beer, which is leading to a renewed interest in the category overall. Our Sharp’s brewery in Rock, Cornwall and Franciscan Well Brewery in Cork, Ireland make some wonderful specialty beers, while Blue Moon, which we also distribute, was one of the first “craft” brands in the United States. In response to this trend, retailers like Tesco and Sainsbury’s have increased space to stock craft beer, and wholesalers will want to offer a range of these brands in order to keep up with it.”

It’s a question of balancing the long established bestsellers with the trendy newcomers, says Scott:

“The biggest challenge for wholesalers is ensuring they are stocking a wide range of products that reflect changing consumer trends but still recognise that most beer sold in the U.K. is familiar favourite lagers, like Carling and Coors Light. It comes down to our relationship with customers. At Molson Coors, we work collaboratively with our wholesale partners, providing impartial category advice to grow retailers’ sales and help them remain the first point of call in an everchanging market.

These consumption levels may sound high but the high-profile ‘Drink Responsibly’ campaign has had its effect on UK consumer buying behaviour, Scott confirms:

“Consumers are becoming increasingly health conscious – many like to enjoy products that provide the great taste of beer or cider but with lower or no alcohol. Molson Coors can provide drinks for customers wishing to go low-or-no, such as Cobra Zero or Rekorderlig Premium Low Alcohol Cider.”

The structural changes taking place in the wholesale industry in terms of consolidation of ownership are affecting the rest of the wholesale business, but Scott sees them as a positive for Molson Coors:

“With an industry expected to be worth £31bn by 2022, it is little surprise that the wholesale industry is becoming increasingly desirable for bigger players. These new entities coming into the market are a great opportunity for suppliers to engage with on a bigger partnership agenda that focuses on helping wholesale partners to deliver for their customers and the consumer. We will continue to work with agility as the market evolves and ensure that our wholesalers are equipped with the right range and expertise to deliver for their own customers.”

Drinks companies like Molson Coors are directly affected by the vagaries of the British weather, says Scott, and this year’s exceptional summer boosted beer, lager and cider sales and demand: “The beautiful summer was certainly one to remember! The hot weather caused sales of off-trade alcohol to increase by 7.4%, as consumers enjoyed beer and cider outside in the rare British sun. In fact, the heatwave and the World Cup contributed to the fastest growth in grocery sales volume since 2013.”

Shortages of beer stocks were also seen this year caused by the unforeseen glitch of the CO2 shortage, but Molson Coors avoided being affected:

“We invested in a CO2 recovery system at our Burton Brewery years ago. That, coupled with our strong contract with our CO2 supplier at our other breweries, meant we were unaffected by the shortage affecting many other businesses earlier this year.”

Molson Coors have shown a similar foresight in their use of the internet to help retailers drive sales, with their recently launched 60 Second Initiative, which outlines three pillars that a shop should deliver to best drive sales in stores. This online tool can provide key insights into the minds of consumers, such as 40% of shoppers want stores to get behind events and be encouraged to buy more different products. It can be found at www.60secondshop.co.uk/en/home “With insights like these,” says Scott, “we can advise wholesalers on what products to stock to satisfy shoppers and meet their needs.”

Scott and his colleagues at Molson Coors also have clear, practical advice for wholesalers and independent retailers about increasing their sales in the run up to Christmas and in the New Year:

“Christmas is always a highlight in the drinks industry calendar. Key to success for wholesalers at this time of year is having the right mix of familiar favourites, more premium options like Aspall English Cyder, and new products for those customers who are looking to try something different. Consumers wishing to enjoy a Dry January can continue to enjoy Molson Coors products such as Cobra Zero, Bavaria 0.0 per cent or Rekorderlig Low Alcohol.”

After just over six months in post, Scott Bayliss is clearly enjoying his role as Wholesale Director:

“I am greatly looking forward to continuing to work with our wholesale customers to ensure they have the right mix of products to delight their own customers and keep them coming back for more.”