With the newly acquired Aspall brand in its stable, Molson Coors has a year of investment, innovation and marketing planned. Managing director Phil Whitehead tells Priyanka Jethwa how independents who offer the right range of mainstream, premium and craft ciders can cash in

RN What are the biggest alcohol trends independent retailers should focus on in 2018?

PW This year, consumers are looking for distinctive and different styles of drinks, and that is particularly true of cider. People are looking for a variety of styles and tastes, just as we saw in the craft gin market. But, while craft is important, making sure retailers have a brilliant everyday offer in the mainstream category is also key. 

RN How will the acquisition of Aspall benefit independent retailers? 

PW Aspall is a tremendous brand in the way it can premiumise independent retailers’ cider offering. Molson Coors can offer retailers the ability to push the brand in store and get it into more consumers’ hands, because of the scale we have as a company. We always had a good cider portfolio within Molson Coors before, with drinks like Rekorderlig, but what we were missing was a cider with provenance and heritage. That is why Aspall was attractive to us, as the longest serving cider brand in the UK.

RN What can retailers expect to see from you this year as you work to redefine the cider category? 

PW This year is all about integrating the Aspall business into Molson Coors, and we need to put some capital on the side to invest in the next round of innovation. We’re also going to spend some time on brand positioning. The brand needs some investment and Molson Coors’ marketing team is working with Aspall’s marketing team to make this happen.

RN Why is it important for retailers to focus on constantly improving their alcohol offering?

PW It’s really important retailers have the right range in store and make sure they are looking at the brands that will make them successful. That’s especially true with mainstream brands such as Carling, which is significantly outperforming its competitors in the category. Likewise, independent retailers need to make sure they have premium and craft products which aren’t just going to take up space, but be actively purchased by consumers. 

RN What is the biggest mistake retailers need to watch out for in 2018? 

PW Retailers need guarantee they are stocking the products that are going to be successful in the long-term. One of the exciting things with craft is that we are seeing a lot of new brands and products coming into the market, but a number of those brands don’t get repeat purchase, so going too far down the ‘craft’ route is something retailers need to watch out for. Working with brands that have longevity is the best thing in the long term – that would be my advice to independents.

RN Looking ahead to the rest of 2018, what are going to be the biggest challenges the alcohol industry is going to face?

PW Consumers are choosing to drink less alcohol than they have traditionally, and choosing different things at different times of the week, so this is one thing retailers need to be aware of. I would encourage independents to focus on the range they are offering and make sure they are stocking brands that are well invested in, because these will be the ones that will be there the longest and appeal to consumers. 

** Company CV ** 

Company Molson Coors

Managing director UK and Ireland Phil Whitehead

Profile Molson Coors is one of the largest global brewers, with an extensive portfolio including Coors Light, Carling and Rekorderlig.

Latest news The company recently acquired Aspall Cyder Limited, a move which will help it tap into the trend for consumers demanding more premium ciders and heritage brands.