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"Consumers are trying to make sense of choice" in craft beer - Molson Coors CEO

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The president & CEO of Molson Coors has echoed comments made last week by Anheuser-Busch InBev's CEO, claiming that US beer consumers are striving to make sense of the array of options in the craft beer space.

Molson Coors CEO Mark Hunter has said there is an "over-supply" of flavours in the beer space

Molson Coors CEO Mark Hunter has said there is an "over-supply" of flavours in the beer space

On a conference call following the release yesterday of the company's third-quarter and year-to-date results, Mark Hunter said beer drinkers in the country are having to deal with an "over-supply" of flavours, driven by the explosion of craft beer. US retailers, meanwhile, are starting to simplify their beer offerings.

"I think what you are starting to see," said Hunter, "is probably over-supply of flavours and SKUs... both retailers and consumers are trying to make sense of the plethora of choice." Hunter admitted that the craft segment has been good for the overall beer industry, "because it has driven conversations and interest in beer to probably an all-time high".

"But, you get to the point where each SKU has to deliver on a velocity basis and has to actually demonstrate its value to customers and consumers."

Hunter said seasonal packs have started to come under pressure as consumers look to create their own selections. He said off-premise outlets such as Walmart have subsequently begun to scale back their range.

"From a consumer perspective - because most of the craft growth has been driven on the back of heavily-hopped IPAs - consumers are recognising those beers are great, but they are not beers you can probably take with you through a long occasion," Hunter added. "We are actually starting to see some consumers step back into some of the American light brands." Molson Coors flagged in yesterday's results that in the third quarter, the Coors Light brand achieved its highest segment share gain in three years.

However, Hunter said that craft beer's performance was not slowing across the board. 

"I don't think it's true to say that craft is for weak for everybody," he continued. "I think there are a number of craft companies that continue to show very strong growth. We just acquired a number of them, which is a good thing for our business."

In mid-August, MillerCoors announced its third craft brewery purchase in as many weeks.

"Craft is starting to... shake itself out with the brands that are well-positioned, clearly distinctive and, alongside that, the retailers really starting to simplify their offer," he added. 

Last week, Anheuser-Busch InBev CEO Carlos Brito suggested that the US explosion in craft beer brands may be nearing an end, saying that consumers "get a bit tired of choice".

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