Molson Coors (NYSE:TAP) is ready to introduce its new Vizzy brand of hard seltzer next month, backed by millions of dollars in marketing support as part of its plan to "aggressively" attack the industry experiencing burgeoning, triple-digit growth.
And though it also has its existing Henry's Hard brand of seltzer on the market, the brewer just announced it will be launching a Coors branded seltzer this summer. All we can ask is, what took you so long?
An on brand opportunity
Coors Light is the third-biggest beer in the U.S. with an estimated $2.2 billion in sales in 2019, and though that's down slightly from the year before, it seems leading with Vizzy is missing out on an opportunity to capitalize on the popularity of its best-selling beer.
Constellation Brands (NYSE:STZ), after all, is poised to introduce its first hard seltzer, and it is launching the flavored malt beverage under its best-selling Corona banner.
President and CEO Bill Newlands recently told analysts, "Corona carries unbelievably strong brand equity as the Number 1 most loved brand among both Hispanic and total population drinkers aged 21 to 54, and that's why we've decided to put the Corona brand name on our new seltzer."
In contrast, Molson Coors wants to make sure everyone understands Vizzy is its primary hard seltzer.
North American vice president of innovation Sofia Colucci made clear when announcing Coors Seltzer, "Vizzy is still our big national bet in hard seltzers, but there's no doubt we'll push on Coors Seltzer given the strength of the proposition and the scale of Coors."
A chance to stand out
Now there is something of a split in the brewing industry. On the one hand is Boston Beer (NYSE:SAM), which has the second biggest-selling hard seltzer on the market in Truly, a brand that has been kept completely separate from its flagship Samuel Adams beer.
On the other is Anheuser Busch InBev (NYSE:BUD), which initially acquired a hard seltzer it renamed Bon & Viv, but has since launched seltzer line extensions for both its Bud Light and Natural Light beer. And as noted above, Constellation is going with Corona.
It's understandable that the Henry's brand was where Molson first put its toe in the (sparkling) water market, since it has been the home of the brewer's hard soda since that was a thing, but the Coors brand seems like where it should've gone next if it wanted to make a bigger splash in seltzer.
The market is being flooded with a tsunami of seltzers that will make it increasingly difficult to stand out on store shelves, much the same way craft beer took over the shelf space of packaged goods retailers and then got lost in the profusion of choice that confronted consumers.
While certain distributors will be able to get at least some of their product prominently displayed, the limited real estate available will make it such that only top brands will receive top placement. And a Coors-branded seltzer would seemingly be able to garner better shelf space than an unknown Vizzy, even with heavy marketing behind it.
It's not about the beer
Molson Coors has changed its overall focus. While beer is not disappearing from its portfolio, it did change its name from "brewing company" to "beverage company" to reinforce the notion going forward that its business is more than just beer.
It could be that going with Vizzy over Coors as the main seltzer brand indicates the company doesn't want to rest on its beer laurels, and perhaps a recognition that seltzer drinkers aren't necessarily just beer drinkers.
Yet having introduced a Coors brand extension, it may find having one of the best-selling beers means you will end up with a leading hard seltzer, too.