Innovation Spotlight: Molson Coors’ Happy Thursday Spiked Refreshers

Isa Franzini & Janine Klimko
Zappi Innovation spotlight Coors Happy Thursday Spiked Refreshers

Welcome to our first Innovation Spotlight! Each month we’ll spotlight a brand that’s capitalizing on a current consumer trend with a new product innovation.

This month we researched Molson Coors’ Happy Thursday Spiked Refreshers. Read on to get our analysis of the product's in-market potential, the audiences it appeals to, as well as why, and what you can learn from it to innovate smarter.

Happy Thursday Spiked Refreshers

A new brand by Molson Coors that hit the shelves in the US this April, Happy Thursday is a smooth, fruity-flavored line of bubble-free spiked refreshers. It was named in honor of the unofficial start of the weekend, telling consumers they don’t need to wait for Friday to start getting that weekend feeling.

Happy Thursday Spiked Refreshers pack

The product has 4.4% alcohol volume and comes in four flavors: Strawberry, Pineapple Starfruit, Black Cherry and Mango Passionfruit. Happy Thursday is available to purchase in a variety pack containing 12 cans of 12oz (3 per flavor) and in individual cans of Strawberry (16 and 24 oz) and Pineapple Starfruit (24 oz).

Why is it interesting?

Happy Thursday’s Spiked Refreshers were born with the help of insights from Gen Z legal-aged category drinkers, who struggle with painful bloating after the consumption of carbonated drinks and have even gone through the trouble of decarbonating their hard seltzers to make them more enjoyable. While hard seltzers became popular many years ago, non-carbonated beverages are starting to grow in popularity now. 

Beyond the non-carbonated nature of the product, the bright colors of the packaging and fruit flavors were also developed with a younger audience in mind.

Happy Thursday Spiked Refreshers flavors

Moderation is also a key trend we’re seeing more and more of in the alcoholic beverages category. Some consumers are completely alcohol-free, some are “sober curious,” while others who are looking to cut back on their alcohol consumption opt to switch between drinks with and without alcohol during the same drinking occasion. Brands are responding with low and no alcohol offers. While 4.4% ABV doesn’t qualify as a “low alcohol” product, it is a lower ABV than many beers, wine and spirits.

We’re excited to see Molson Coors tapping into the continued growth of the hard seltzer category, but offering a non-carbonated alternative that addresses a pain point of those beverages.

Top three takeaways
  1. Catering to a very niche target audience can be limiting, but if the base insight for the creation of your product is true beyond the target group (e.g. Gen Z isn’t the only audience put off by carbonation), there is further potential to scale.

  2. It's important to understand market trends, consumer challenges and gaps in the market; but most importantly whether you can address those credibly with your existing portfolio. Molson Coors was smart to create a new brand here rather than launching a subrange of an existing brand.

  3. Offering a variety of flavors or formats when launching a new product can mean higher initial costs of production, but can also ultimately pay off in attracting different people and providing a sense of choice.

A deep dive into our analysis:

What’s the potential?

Happy Thursday scores in the top 35% of all alcoholic beverage innovations we have tested in the US market in terms of trial potential and in the top half in breakthrough potential. Among its category of hard seltzers and canned cocktails, the product scores within the top 45% in trial potential and in the top 30% in breakthrough potential. 

This means the product is likely to appeal beyond category consumers (non-hard seltzer and canned cocktail drinkers) and within the category it is seen as relatively distinctive compared to what’s already available. 

Happy Thursday trial and breakthrough potential scores
Each concept is plotted on a matrix based on its Trial Potential and Breakthrough Potential among the broad category audience. In this view, all concepts are classified as one of five types based on their performance, which gives clear guidance on how to evolve the concept and how to take it to market.

The brand shows good potential both from a trial and breakthrough perspective, particularly for a product that was designed with a very particular target consumer in mind. When the target audience is narrow (which in this case it is considering this product is targeting younger consumers of drinking age, who drink alcoholic beverages, are open to ready to drink products (RTDs) and want a non carbonated option), a product might struggle to generate mass appeal. As a result, trial potential suffers. 

But this isn’t the case at all for Happy Thursday, which managed to score a trial potential above average both in the context of total alcoholic beverages and within the hard seltzers and canned cocktails category. With the product being a “first-of-its-kind” as Molson Coors describes, it was bound to peak the interest of consumers beyond the target audience — offering a non-carbonated option beyond hard teas within a category that is dominated by carbonation (purchase likelihood T2B: 58.3% vs 56.7% category norm). 

A note on breakthrough potential 

When it comes to breakthrough potential, we look at two key measures to determine this:

  1. How different (distinctiveness) a product is

  2. How superior (advantage) a product is vs what’s already available in market 

Happy Thursday has an edge in advantage, with a score directionally above the norm for hard seltzers and canned cocktails. The distinctiveness score is directionally under the norm. The product is seen as particularly superior by younger adults (21-34 years old), who Molson Coors had targeted as the ones most concerned about carbonation.

Happy Thursday advantage and distinctiveness scores

While the lack of carbonation could have been interpreted as a point of differentiation, it had more of an impact in the perception of superiority of the product vs the average we see for hard seltzer and canned cocktail innovations in the US. This is true particularly for the younger audience, who also see the brand as significantly more successful in delivering the main things they look for in hard seltzers and canned cocktails (meets needs T2B: 88.3% vs 67.9% norm and 72.2% total respondents), and claim to need or want the product significantly more than average (relevance of problem T2B: 68.7% vs 50.7% norm and 56.3% total respondents).

A deeper look into who it appeals to

The product proved to be significantly more appealing among certain groups of people; specifically the younger the consumer. But despite the focus on a Gen Z audience, Happy Thursday has managed to lure a slightly older audience with 35 to 49 year-old consumers also being significantly more likely to purchase the brand compared to the average hard seltzer innovation tested in the US. 

Older adults weren’t as sold by the product; however, this could be highly linked to their category engagement. Only just over 1 in 3 adults over 50 years old claimed to engage with hard seltzers and canned cocktails at least once a month compared to over 60% of those under 50. 

Happy Thursday purchase likelihood scores

What do they like about it? 

There is a clear link between engagement with the category and product appeal. Respondents who buy hard seltzers and canned cocktails at least once a month are significantly more likely to want to purchase Happy Thursday, see it as distinctive and superior compared to what’s already available, find that it meets their needs and generally love the concept.

Happy Thursday respondent chart

Generally, people really liked the brightness of the pack with bold and inviting colors that catch one’s attention straight away. The choice of graphics, fonts and colors of the packaging were particularly appealing to younger adults (21-34 year olds). The variety of flavors was hugely appreciated to cater for different tastes and share with others.

Happy Thursday product likes scores chart

Here’s what respondents liked most about Happy Thursday Spiked Refreshers:

  • "What I like about Happy Thursday spiked refreshers is that it comes in a party pack with 4 different flavors so anybody can enjoy, plus it's only 4. 4% alcohol."

  • "I really like that they are non-carbonated and currently great flavors for summer by the pool."

  • "I like the flavors and thinking it being non-carbonated would eliminate the bloating feeling."

  • "What I like about Happy Thursday spiked refreshers is that it comes in multiple different flavors. I love having different flavors to choose from."

  • "I like the packaging! I’m attracted to color things the more vibrant the more fun it seems to purchase."

  • "They look bright and fun. For the summer! They look like they would be refreshing for a BBQ cookout."

  • "The bright, fun colors. Also the sleekness of the box is really unique and cool."

When looking at what people liked and disliked about the product through image and description heat maps, we can see that while there is a lot of love for the non-carbonated nature of the product, this can also be polarizing for a number of people who still prefer the fizz. 

Another element that divides respondents is the level of alcohol; while low or no-alcohol beverages are on the rise, particularly among certain demographics, there are still a number of people who would prefer a stronger drink.

Final thoughts

All in all, Molson Coors has a very promising new brand on their hands. There is massive potential among the target audience they wanted to address by launching Happy Thursday, but there is also an opportunity with a slightly older demographic who are very welcoming of the product. 

What did you think? Let us know by interacting with our coverage of the product on LinkedIn.

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