Beer merger a threat to nationalism

If Molson and Coors combine, a Canadian identity could be lost

Enjoying Canada’s favourite beer with a side of national pride may become a thing of the past.
Enjoying Canada’s favourite beer with a side of national pride may become a thing of the past.
Credit: 
Photo courtesy of molson.com
Kimberley Leppik, ArtSci '05
Kimberley Leppik, ArtSci '05

Founded in 1786, Molson Inc. is North America’s oldest brewery. The company has become a Canadian national icon.

The creators of the “I Am Canadian” ad campaign announced last summer they had plans to join forces with the American company Coors Inc. in a “merger of equals.” The proposed deal would create “Molson-Coors Inc.,” and would become the fifth largest brewery by capacity in the world.

Molson and Coors respectively cite desires to compete in the world market and the cutting of costs, as reasons for the merger. The two companies already have an agreement to sell each other’s products in their respective countries, causing many financial analysts to question the real benefits of the merger.

Even after having combined forces, Molson-Coors is not likely to be powerful enough to compete with industry giants such as Interbrew SA—the Belgian titan which has controlled Canada’s number two brand, Labatt, since 1995.

We, as Canadians, are incredibly patriotic when it comes to our beer. Brands produced and licensed by Labatt and Molson like Blue, Canadian and Rickard’s account for almost nine out of every 10 bottles of beer sold in Canada. We drink 90 per cent Canadian brew—and why not—considering every self-respecting Canadian knows that drinking a bottle of American beer is akin to consuming a similar amount of rust-flavoured tap water.

Or should it now be, we drank 90 per cent Canadian brew? Once the merger goes through, Canada’s two biggest breweries will essentially be foreign-owned, much like Canada’s other national symbol, Tim Horton’s. Timmy’s was bought by the American fast-food chain Wendy’s in the late 1990s, and we all watched in mourning as the once colossal apple fritter shrunk to a quarter of its original size.

While Canada certainly does need more competitive companies in the foreign market, is it worth losing Canadian identity in order to propel a watered-down product onto the world stage? Much more is at stake in this deal than simply product quality. The “I Am Canadian” ads were brilliant—they consolidated many of what we Canadians consider to be the defining characteristics of our nation. The ads invoked a mild patriotism in our otherwise somewhat apathetic generation. I laughed until I cried every time I saw the one in which an American, after having mockingly asked a Canadian where his pet beaver is, is mauled by the animal. I cheered as another Canadian “jerseyed” an American for making fun of his toques and accents. My skin tingled with pride as Joe walked onstage and echoed the words “I can proudly sew my country’s flag on my backpack. I believe in peacekeeping, not policing. I believe in diversity, and not assimilation ... Canada is the second largest land mass, the first nation of hockey, and the best part of North America. My name is Joe, and I Am Canadian.”

As the impending merger draws near, the chairmen of both companies have already expressed a desire to change up the advertising. They want to pool their advertising budgets and alter marketing strategies. Having merged with an American company, Molson is not likely to continue on the same Canada-positive America-negative theme as before. Not that I have anything against the average American, but is it not part of Canadian culture to poke fun at our Southern neighbours every now and then, in an attempt to culturally distance ourselves?

The next time you sit down in your watering-hole of choice to watch the game—which, devastatingly, will most likely not be the preferred game of Canadians this year—order a bottle of the number one beer in Canada. As you drink down your “Molson-Coors Canadian”, you can proudly search the label for the new slogan: something like “I was Canadian, I am now (North) American.”

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