Molson Coors teams up with Quebec’s Hydropothecary to develop cannabis-infused beverages

The Molson Coors brewery in Montreal.
Canadian Press

Molson Coors Brewing Company today reported its second-quarter earnings, however the financial results took a backseat to news that its Canadian business division had formed a joint venture with a Quebec cannabis company.

The brewer says the venture with The Hydropothecary Corporation (HEXO) will be a standalone start-up with its own board and management team, with Molson Coors Canada having a 57.5 per cent interest and HEXO holding the balance.

The deal will be finalized by the end of September and is subject to the final approval of the Toronto Stock Exchange. Sales of alcoholic beverages declined significantly in states that legalized medical marijuana, according to research by the University of CT and Georgia State University. After talking with several potential partners, Molson Coors chose Hydropothecary because of its research and development capabilities, its loyal customer base and its strong brand, he said.

Molson Coors sales declines improved slightly in the second quarter of the year but a global volumes drop saw the United States and Canadian brewer pledge to address weakness in its home markets.

"We view this as a historic milestone as the Canadian cannabis industry looks for innovative ways to enter the beverage industry", Beacon Securities analyst Douglas Cooper said in a note.

The move follows an announcement previous year by Constellation Brands, which revealed it would will pay CAD 245 million ($191 million) for a 9.9% stake in Canopy Growth Corporation, a Canadian supplier of medicinal marijuana, paving the way for it to launch a series of cannabis-infused alcoholic drinks.

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He said the marijuana industry could fuel alcohol's next growth cycle or instead suffocate an industry already on the defensive.

The new company will combine the proven experience of Canada's leading beers with a new innovator in the fast-growing cannabis market.

"We're going to start with THC but also CBD and then CBG".

The companies aim to develop non-alcohol cannabis beverages for the Canadian market once it becomes legal, after the country voted to legalise recreational use of the drug last month. Blue Moon creator Keith Villa, who retired from Molson Coors after 32 years earlier this year, is also in the process of launching his own line of THC-infused products under the Ceria Beverages label.

Molson Coors, the No. 2 beer maker in North America, has seen global beer volumes fall in the latest quarter.

Revenues for the period ended June 30 slipped to almost US$3.1 billion, slightly below expectations.

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