Molson Coors invests in brewery founded by gang rivals

Dive Brief:

  • Molson Coors is making an equity investment in Tru Colors and will work with the brewery to assist in the distribution strategy, brand positioning, supplier relationships, marketing and product development, the companies said in a statement. Tru, which stands for truth, responsibility and unity, was founded by a tech entrepreneur and rival gang leaders from the Bloods, Crips and GD.
  • Molson Coors said the investment is not only a strategic one but the latest in a series of steps by the maker of Miller Lite and Coors Light to foster a more inclusive and diverse culture. Tru Colors is planning to introduce its first product this summer.
  • While companies were doing more to promote inclusion and diversity, CPGs of all sizes became more active and outspoken on the issue in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement last summer. They also have spoken out following the riots at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., and recent voting law changes in Georgia.

Dive Insight:

Molson Coors has been actively expanding its portfolio during the past year-and-a-half to include more hard seltzers, energy drinks, spirits and even plant-based offerings. But the latest investment shows the alcohol giant hasn’t forgotten about beer and has uncovered a unique business opportunity that promotes diversity and inclusion and soon will generate revenue.

On the surface, investing in a young beer brand that hasn’t even launched yet is a risky and largely unheard of endeavor for a company with a sweeping portfolio of iconic brews. With the initiative, Molson is also partnering with a company that currently hires those still involved in gangs to work at the brewery. Tru Colors’ mission is to provide an economic opportunity for advancement to workers while tapping into their street skills and influence to create a successful and thriving business.

In the partnership and investment, Tru Colors immediately gains a strategic partner to accelerate its growth and distribution. The U.S. has more than 8,800 breweries, most of them craft, so working with Molson Coors — one of the world’s largest beer manufacturers — is an immediate win for the team of entrepreneurs aiming to get their business off the ground in a competitive environment.

Tru Colors will launch its first beer in summer 2021 in North Carolina and Virginia, with plans to distribute to all 50 states within its first 24 months of operation. It’s difficult for any upstart beer maker to do that on its own without the financial backing and expertise of a company like Molson Coors.

For Molson Coors, Tru Colors not only allows it to add a new beer to the mix but also moves it a step closer to achieving its own set of diversity and inclusion goals. The company has a target of increasing representation of people of color in its U.S. operations by 25% by the end of 2023. It also has committed to donating a total of $3 million to 26 local and national organizations dedicated to equality, empowerment, justice and community building by the end of this year.

“This partnership represents an opportunity to not only invest in what we believe will be a successful business, but also in a brand with a strong social justice presence that will have an immeasurable positive impact on hundreds of lives,” ​Gavin Hattersley, CEO of Molson Coors, said in a statement.

The Black Lives Matter movement, in particular, has been a watershed moment for companies. Along with Molson Coors, Diageo, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola are just a few of the other companies who have announced they would donate money to help Black communities, businesses or groups who represent them.

Businesses also have changed the names of brands who had come under intense criticism for being insensitive: PepsiCo renamed Aunt Jemima pancake products Pearl Milling Company; Mars changed the name of Uncle Ben’s rice to Ben’s Original and removed the picture of a Black man with a bowtie from its packaging; and Eskimo Pie was changed to Edy’s Pie.

Together, these initiatives and investments show a food and beverage community that is more willing to be outspoken, whether it’s because of their own willingness or due to outside influence.

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