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UK: Molson Coors expects strong Cobra sales to stick

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Molson Coors believes that Cobra's double-digit sales momentum can lift it into the top ten best selling beers in the UK within a decade.

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This week, Molson Coors announced a GBP4m (US$6.3m) advertising drive on Cobra. The brewer has majority control of the Cobra Beer Partnership, in which it works with the brand's founder, Lord Karan Bilimoria.

Speaking to just-drinks today (2 March), Molson Coors' Brand Co MD for the UK and Ireland, Chris McDonough, said that the firm expects to maintain double-digit growth in volume sales on Cobra year-on-year. In value terms, sales are slated to rise at the same level or "marginally ahead" of volume growth.

According to the latest Off Licence News/Nielsen UK beer report, published in November, Cobra sits 25th in volume sales terms in the beer market. But, it's year-on-year volume growth of 20% was stronger than any brand placed above it, bar Carlsberg's San Miguel. 

"We are still some way back," said McDonough. "But we have set out a roadmap to be top ten by 2020. We want to be the number two world beer by 2015." So-called world beers are strongly outperforming a shrinking UK beer market, up by 8% in volume and 11.5% in value year-on-year as of November last year, according to Molson Coors, which also distributes Singha beer in the same category.

SABMiller's Peroni Nastro Azzurro is considered the best-selling 'world beer'. McDonough concedes that the definition of the category is somewhat "amorphous". He defines it as products with a proven heritage from a particular country, which rely strongly on imagery and culture from that country in marketing and are brewed to their original recipe. Anheuser-Busch InBev's Stella Artois does not make the cut although, more recently, its own latest marketing campaign plays on its Belgian heritage.

With world beer, "consumers are buying into escapist imagery on beer," added McDonough. "You are also buying into something that badges you, that gives you an element of authenticity."

Cobra's new advertising campaign portrays the beer being consumed in a modern, young and vibrant India. It follows new packaging for the beer, launched late last year.

The campaign is intended to promote Cobra as premium and aspirational, with a set heritage. "It's not dissimilar to how Peroni was established here," said McDonough. "We've got a similar thought process on Cobra."

He added that Molson Coors is "delighted" with the progress of the Cobra Beer Partnership, since the UK brewer scooped Cobra and its founder, Lord Bilimoria, from administration almost three years ago.


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