How the Biggest Beer Brands Are Competing for Market Share in Canada

Canada’s biggest beer brands – including Labatt, Molson, and Moosehead – continue to fight for market share in Canada. In some cases, they are rolling out new products to appeal to new niches of the beer market. In other cases, they are experimenting with new marketing strategies to win over Canada’s beer drinkers.

The 1st thing you need to know about Canada’s huge domestic beer market is that the smaller, independent brewers have been largely pushed aside by the big multinational brewers, and that has fundamentally changed a number of financial resources now available to win market share nationally. For example, Molson merged with Coors in 2005, and Labatt is now part of the Anheuser-Busch InBev conglomerate. That means that American beer brands – Coors and Budweiser especially – have become just as popular as some of the long-time classic Canadian beer brands.

Thus, one aspect of this battle for market share is to convince drinkers that they are drinking the “true Canadian beer.” Moosehead, for example, is the oldest independent brewery still around in Canada and often uses that fact in its marketing and promotion. But Moosehead is not alone – the Molson Canadian brand is almost synonymous with Canada’s beer heritage, and that extends to the distinctive Canadian maple leaf on every bottle and can of beer.

Speaking of the maple leaf on the bottle, packaging and design actually play a greater role in marketing these beers than you might think. Take the example of Labatt, which has used a single color – blue – to dominate the Canadian beer market with its bestselling Labatt Blue Pilsner, which was introduced all the way back in 1951. The blue label is one of the most distinctive uses of branding in all of Canada. Moving from “stubbies” to “longnecks” is another example of how packaging and design have played a role.

Where the battle for the Canadian beer drinker takes place, though, is in the media. About a decade ago, that battle took place on TV, the radio and in magazine print ads. But with the rise of Facebook popularity and other social media platforms, that battle now plays out on social media. Having an attracted presence on these sites is yet one more way to engage beer drinkers and remind them of the most popular brands.

Finally, it’s impossible to talk about Canadian beer without mentioning the nation’s small craft beer makers, who represent just 6 percent of the market. While that’s still a tiny market share, it’s been a stimulus for the biggest Canadian beer makers to come up with their craft-inspired offerings.

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Just as in the United States, where the largest beer giants create new sub-brands to pull in craft beer aficionados, the same tactic is being used in Canada as well. For example, while Molson is best known for its Molson Golden brand, it’s also the brewer of Black Horse (only available in Newfoundland), Calgary Beer (only available in Saskatchewan and Alberta) and India Beer (only available in Newfoundland). And, just as Coors has Blue Moon as a sub-brand, Molson has Rickard’s.

So wherever you go – whether it’s a retail store, where brands compete for floor space, or a major event, in which the biggest brands act as visible sponsors – it seems like the constant battle between Canada’s biggest beer makers is always taking place.