We Are Drinking So Much Corona Its Brewers Can Barely Keep Up

By Mike Pomranz |
FWX TOO MANY CORONAS

© Richard Levine / Alamy

Believe it or not, Corona—that beer most people shove a lime into at Mexican restaurants—is the fifth best-selling beer in America. With 7.8 million barrels brought in last year, it is also our country’s number one imported beer. For most beer companies, that news would make them ecstatic, but for Constellation Brands, Inc., producers of Corona, such amazing demand has left them struggling to keep up.

The problem, according to the Wall Street Journal, is a recent shift in rights for a group of brands lumped under the Grupo Modelo name—brands that include Modelo, Pacifico and Corona. Back in 2012, Anheuser-Busch InBev bought out the Modelo Group for more than $20 billion, but that led to an antitrust suit from the US government. To appease regulators, A-B InBev ended up giving all American distribution rights for these brands to Constellation—a company that formerly focused on making wine for brands like Robert Mondavi.

Are you having trouble following all of that? Well, in some ways, so is Constellation. Part of their agreement with the US Justice Department was that they would take over all production of Corona and the rest of Modelo’s beer line-up by June 2016. That’s a pretty tall order when you suddenly go from being a winemaker to the US’s third-largest beer company, as Constellation had just done. “I never saw that coming,” Bill Hackett, president of Constellation’s beer division, told the Wall Street Journal.

Meanwhile, sales of Modelo’s brands, including Corona, keep trending upward—12 percent higher in the past year alone. At this point, Constellation—which currently handles only half of Modelo’s beer production—is just hoping they’ll be ready to go come next June. They’re more than doubling capacity of their Mexico-based brewery while still brewing at the same time. Plus they’re also planning a second brewery closer to California. Hackett told the WSJ his biggest fear is running out of beer.

Ultimately, Corona drinkers should be able to continue their lime-stuffing ways. Hackett set a long-term goal of doubling the amount of beer made under the Modelo umbrella to 360 million barrels, which ought to satisfy demand. But if you find it harder to get a case of Corona for your barbecue next summer, you’ll know why.

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