Golden First Quarter

Coors continues impressive surge in growth

Molson Coors Brewing reported a 10% jump in growth in sales in Canada and the United States. Higher prices helped offset a 5.5 percent increase in the cost per barrel of grains, plastic packaging and shipping fuel, the company said. While Molson Coors’s shipments rose, Anheuser-Busch shipped less beer to retailers in the quarter, and Miller’s growth slowed.

The third-largest U.S. beer maker, formed by the 2005 merger of Adolph Coors Co. and Molson Inc., is slowly narrowing the gap with Anheuser-Busch Cos. Molson said sales of Coors Light boosted U.S. shipments to retailers by 6.6 percent, while Anheuser posted a decline.

Molson Coors plans to combine its U.S. operations with those of London-based SABMiller, the second-biggest U.S. brewer, in the middle of this year. The company spent $7.3 million in the quarter preparing for the merger. Growth of Coors’s domestic labels and the pending partnership increase pressure on St. Louis-based Anheuser to spend more to market its key domestic brews Bud Light and Budweiser.

For the year that ended April 19, Molson Coors gained share of the U.S. grocery, drug store and convenience market as Anheuser lost ground, according to data from Nielsen Co. Molson Coors added 0.7 percentage point to end up with almost 11 percent of the market. Budweiser dropped 0.2 percentage point to more than 52 percent.

Molson Coors said it cut costs by $29 million in the quarter as part of a three-year program to achieve $250 million in cost savings.