Molson Coors looks to lock in market share gains as consumers shift away from Bud Light

Coors beer is displayed on a store shelf on February 13, 2024 in San Rafael, California. 

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

Brewer Molson Coors said on Tuesday that it expects to maintain its market share gains in the year ahead.

The company, which makes Coors Light and Miller Lite, reported strong fourth-quarter earnings Tuesday as net sales for 2023 grew 9.3%. Those revenue gains were in large part tied to consumers migrating away from AB InBev‘s Bud Light products after boycotts began last April.

“Molson Coors was well positioned to benefit from the significant shifts in consumer purchasing habits,” the company said in its earnings release, though it didn’t directly refer to the boycotts.

It was a return to profit for Molson Coors from a loss a year ago. The company reported net income of $103.3 million, or 48 cents a share, for the quarter, compared with a loss of $590.5 million, or $2.73 a share, during the same period last year.

Molson said its underlying earnings were $1.19 per share, which outpaced the $1.12 per share analysts were expecting, according to LSEG, formerly known as Refinitiv.

CEO Gavin Hattersley shared his confidence in the company’s plan to maintain its leadership in the beer category on the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call.

“The gains we’ve seen in our core brands have been consistent for over nine months,” Hattersley said. “We’re growing in every region, every channel, with every major customer in the United States, and at this point, we believe that the shifts in the U.S. beer industry are permanent.”

Molson also invested a significant amount of capital in the fourth quarter, spending nearly 19% more on marketing and administrative costs to achieve those gains.

The company was among the advertisers that spent big on Sunday’s Super Bowl game, with a commercial featuring LL Cool J and the icy Coors Light train. For the second consecutive year, the average cost of a 30-second ad spot was $7 million.

“We invested strongly behind our brands, increasing marketing spend over $50 million in the quarter,” said Greg Tierney, vice president of financial planning and analysis and investor relations, on the company’s earnings call. “Our focus was on retaining our existing drinkers and attracting new ones.”

Some analysts on the earnings call remained skeptical that Molson’s gains from the Bud Light boycott would be sustainable. The stock fell nearly 3% Tuesday despite the rosy outlook. But others think Hattersley’s strategy will pay off for investors.

TD Cowen analyst Robert Moskow said in a note to investors that the company “will hold on to the majority of the share they picked up from the Bud Light boycotts.”

Ariel Investments, which has invested in Molson Coors since 2018, also remains confident in the stock’s performance.

“The core brands were growing dollar share even before the Bud Light controversy,” said Tim Fidler, Ariel Investments’ portfolio manager.

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