JOINT VENTURE: Molson partners with Quebec's HEXO to develop cannabis-infused beverages

Sebastien St-Louis Hydropothecary CEO

Sebastien St-Louis Hydropothecary CEO

The Canadian unit of Molson Coors Brewing Co.is partnering with Hydropothecary Corp. for another landmark team-up between a big beer company and one of Canada's leading marijuana producers.

The deal between Hexo and Molson Coors is expected to be finalized by the end of September this year.

Weed beer has been something talked about ever since it became clear that the federal government was going to legalize marijuana. The Molson-HEXO deal is structured as a standalone start-up company, complete with its own management team and board of directors. However, cannabis-infused edibles and beverages will not be immediately legalized - those products expected to receive approval sometime in 2019. "We expect today's Hexo/Molson Coors Canada JV to be nothing short of trend-setting for the cannabis industry as a whole". Indeed, Molson is Canada's leading brewer, and HEXO is a major player in Canadian cannabis.

"Canada is breaking new ground in the cannabis sector", said Molson Coors CEO Frederic Landtmeters in a statement.

Corona beer distributor Constellation Brands Inc. invested $245 million for a 9.9 per cent stake in Canada's largest licensed cannabis producer, Canopy Growth, last year.

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"There is a paradigm shift underway and cannabis has the potential to provide answers to the alcoholic drinks industry's existential questions", said Spiros Malandrakis, head of alcoholic drinks at Euromonitor.

Recreational marijuana is set to become legal in Canada on October 17, but edible products infused with pot - including beverages - will remain illegal until specific government regulations are rolled out in 2019 at the earliest. The two companies say they will "explore the highly anticipated consumable cannabis market".

HEXO, based in Gatineau, Que., now has more than 300,000 square feet of production capacity with an expansion more than three times that size to be completed by the end of the year.

The Molson Coors brewery in Montreal. Its stock rose about seven per cent to $5.30 in morning trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange after the deal was announced.

"Although the industry faced another tough quarter due to a challenging April as well as the impact of holiday mismatches, we are dissatisfied with our overall market share trends and we will continue to focus on reinvigorating Coors Light while maintaining the strong improvements in Miller Lite and continuing to accelerate our performance in above premium to improve both top and bottom line results", Hunter said.

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