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After Becoming Territory’s No. 1 Beer, Coors Sets Its Sights on South America

jorge pita

MIAMI — Despite strong competition from local and regional brands that dominate many markets, Molson Coors is boosting its sales in Latin America and the Caribbean and sees strong growth opportunities for its brands — like Coors Light and Blue Moon — throughout the region.

Jorge Pita is the Aventura-based director of business development for Latin America and the Caribbean at Molson Coors International, a division of Molson Coors Brewing Co. “Beer consumption is increasing in Latin America and premium beer is the fastest-growing segment,” he said.

Pita, who was born in Cuba and arrived in the U.S. when he was 12, joined Molson Coors in 2011 and was named to the Latin American/Caribbean post in 2013. He previously held executive posts with Campbell Soup Co. and Kraft Foods. Pita received a B.B.A. in finance and international business from Florida International University and an MBA in finance and marketing from the University of Connecticut School of Business.

Molson Coors has been selling in the region for 25 years, getting its start in the Virgin Islands and expanding to other parts of the Caribbean and Latin America. Today, Molson Coors sells Coors Light, Blue Moon and Coors 1873 (the regional name for the Coors Banquet brand sold in the United States). The company is constantly looking at opportunities to test new markets for these and other company brands.

Molson Coors sells its premium brands to distributors and licensees in Mexico and Central America and throughout the Caribbean. It recently expanded to Chile and Paraguay, and is exploring new markets in South America.

“Our beer has resonated with customers throughout the region,” Pita said. “Our biggest seller today is Coors Light, but our other brands are gaining popularity.”

Some of the beer sold in the region is exported from the MillerCoors brewery in Albany, Georgia. While Molson Coors Brewing Co. is the parent, the company operates through MillerCoors in the U.S., Molson Coors Canada in Canada, Molson Coors Europe and Molson Coors International in Latin America, the Caribbean and other markets.

The Coors Light sold in Mexico, the company’s largest regional market, has been produced by licensee Cuahutémoc-Moctezuma in Monterrey, Mexico, since 2004. One of Mexico’s major brewers, Cuahutémoc-Moctezuma, is now part of Heineken International.

The refreshing flavor of Molson Coors’ brands has been their main selling point, especially when compared to some of the national brands, Pita said.

“Innovation is also an important factor,” he said. For example, Coors Light cans and bottles have an attractive feature called cold activation. The off-white color of the Rocky Mountains image on labels turns blue as the beer reaches its optimum chilled temperature. The Coors Light silver-colored can (called “The Silver Bullet”) also has small tabs that turn blue to announce when the beer is “cold” or “super cold.”

“This tells you when the beer is cold and ready to drink,” Pita said. “Also, the can has an extra-large tab and mouth so that it’s easier to pour and you don’t get a lot of bubbles.”

To expand its brand portfolio in Latin America and the Caribbean, Molson Coors International opened its regional office in Aventura in 2011. It currently has six employees here, three more working in the region, and it plans to add more professionals to the Aventura headquarters. Molson Coors has a worldwide workforce of about 9,100.

Aside from the essential task of developing new sales, Pita and his staff oversee sales, marketing and supply chain for its diverse markets in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Expansion in the region is not easy even though beer consumption is rising. Molson Coors is moving into markets where it must compete with strong local brands, some of which have been familiar names for many decades, as well as with international beers like Miller Light, Budweiser and Miller Genuine Draft. In some markets, like Mexico, Molson Coors competes with Heineken, which produces Coors Light at its Cuahutémoc-Moctezuma brewery in Monterrey.

But Molson Coors has a clear strategy. “We go after the middle- and upper-class markets, and we position our beers as premium and super-premium,” Pita said. “It takes one to two years to develop a brand, and it’s important to find the right partner in each market.”

The company’s efforts so far have been quite successful. In 2011, Molson Coors entered Trinidad and Tobago and has tripled its sales since then, now holding a 9 percent market share. Six years ago, it introduced Panama to Coors Light (the first light beer sold in the country) and Coors 1873, and it now has an important share of the national market.

“In 2014, our sales volume in the region was up 50 percent, and since 2011, we have tripled our business,” Pita said. “Latin America is one of the most profitable regions in the world for the beer industry and it’s one of the most important markets for Molson Coors. Our only problem is this: There are so many opportunities, where do we focus first?”

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