A global market leader, Molson Coors Brewing Company has a rich legacy of more than three centuries dating back to 1774. Ashish Kapoor, president, Molson Coors India shares the interesting history of the company and its key products in the India market where the changing preferences of consumers are driving the demand
For a company which has more than 350 years of combined brewing heritage, Molson Coors has been delighting the world’s beer drinkers for centuries. “We are more passionate than ever about making great beer. We’ve won many international awards, but awards aren’t as important as great beer. We’re always working to perfect our brands and develop new ones,” says Ashish Kapoor, president, Molson Coors India.
The history of the company goes back to 1774, when William Worthington began brewing in Burton on Trent, England. Kapoor informs that some of the most interesting stories lie in the family heritage itself. John Molson founded Canada’s oldest beer brewery on the banks of the St Lawrence River in Montreal. In 1959, Molson Canadian was first brewed and today is one of Canada’s most iconic and best-selling brands. “Adolph Coors, a penniless brewer’s apprentice, stumbled on the perfect water in Clear Creek at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. 105 years later, Coors Light was born and would go on to be enjoyed by beer drinkers in over 25 countries worldwide,” mentions Kapoor, adding that Frederick J. Miller began his apprenticeships in brewing in adolescence and by 1849 was brewmaster to a prince in Sigmaringen, Hohenzollern. After immigrating to the US in 1854, he settled in Milwaukee and later purchased the suburban Plank Road Brewery for US$ 2,300. “He brought a unique brewer’s yeast from Germany; its descendant yeast is still used in some of our beers,” points out Kapoor.
The portfolio of Molson Coors includes leading premium brands such as Coors Light, Molson Canadian, Carling, Staropramen and Blue Moon across The Americas, Europe and Asia. “It operates in Canada through Molson Coors Canada; in the US through MillerCoors; across Europe through Molson Coors Europe; and outside these core markets through Molson Coors International. We have a presence in communities all over the world. That’s how we’re able to capture the local flavour and spirit of each region and share that with our drinkers,” shares Kapoor.
Speaking about the operations in India and the key milestones in the country, Kapoor mentions that Molson Coors Brewing Company entered India in June 2011, when the company acquired the controlling stake in Cobra India Beer Private Limited, thereby creating the joint venture Molson Coors Cobra India. “Further in early 2013, Molson Coors Cobra and Mount Shivalik Breweries Ltd (MSBL) entered into a contract brewing and distribution agreement whereby each party would brew and distribute each other’s brands in their respective markets. Expanding its product range in the country, in 2014 Molson Coors Cobra India launched British iconic brand ‘Carling’ in the Indian market,” he says, adding that in April 2015, Molson Coors acquired Mount Shivalik Breweries Ltd (MSBL). As a result, MSBL’s entire brand portfolio, including the leading strong beer brand, Thunderbolt, became a part of Molson Coors in India. According to Kapoor, following the acquisition of Mount Shivalik Breweries, Molson Coors has made a substantial investment towards upgrading the existing facilities to international standards and expanding the presence of its product portfolios in the northern markets.
Another important milestone in the India market happened in 2015, when Molson Coors India forayed into the fast growing premium strong beer segment with the launch of Carling Strong Premium Beer, a variant of Britain’s number 1 beer brand, Carling. “Building on the current popularity of strong beer in India and setting new highs with international standards in 2016, Molson Coors India re-introduced Thunderbolt, in a new look. Continuing with the momentum, we have also added Miller High Life and Miller Ace to our product portfolio,” states Kapoor. In India, the company has three brewing units – in Bhankarpur, Punjab; Ambala, Haryana and Sikandarpur, near Patna, Bihar.
Giving his views on how the profile and preference of the beer drinking public has changed in India, Kapoor says, “India so far has been a country more skewed towards spirits and country liquor. In the last decade we have seen the acceptance of low alcohol beverages such as beer, wine and ready to drink too. Beer has not just evolved as a social drink but has also led to a themed and responsible drinking culture with a surge in the pubs and microbreweries in India.” He believes that an important factor here is exposure to international cultures and sociocultural facts related to it. “Also, with the versatility that beer offers in the flavours and aroma, the beer pairing options are limitless. This all accumulated, have led to beer emerging as a lifestyle quotient for the urban generation,” he affirms.
In recent years there has been an increase in demand for brews that meet global standards, which is leading to growth in the premium and imported super-premium categories of beer with a potential to attract profit margins. “To cater to the consumer preferences, we have Miller ACE and Carling in the strong premium segment, apart from Miller High Life, a milder variant in the premium segment,” states Kapoor.
The popularity of microbreweries in recent years has brought in interesting dynamics in the beer market. Kapoor acknowledges that though India is relatively a price sensitive market but there is a value conscious segment too, the ones looking for experiences, variety, quality and consistency over money. Also, the changing dynamics of the consumption patterns and taste preferences towards international brews that meet global standards has led to a shift in the cultural attitudes.
“There is a steady growth in the country’s per capita income level with its young population actively joining the workforce and so are the leisure budgets of the urban population. This is leading to the emergence of this niche and an innovative concept of microbreweries in cities, such as NCR, Bangalore, Mumbai and Pune with Hyderabad, Kolkata and Chandigarh slowly making their way to the list. They offer great varieties when it comes to taste, aroma and brews providing both complementary and contrasting experiences when paired with food,” remarks Kapoor, adding that as pub drinking is all about the experience, there is a great acceptance here to stay. “Having to savour a freshly brewed beer straight from the tap is a great concept and draught beer represents a significant business opportunity,” he mentions.