Michelada And Chelada Time

Yet another Mexican phenomenon is the talk of the beer business.

Building on the popularity of Mexican beers, cheledas are attracting attention at Florida’s Mendez Fuel (pictured).
Building on the popularity of Mexican beers, cheledas are attracting attention at Florida’s Mendez Fuel (pictured).

As beer retailers are filling the shelves for the summer selling season, it might be wise to make room for a few micheladas. The Mexican-born drinks, and most especially their chelada variants, continue to buck overall beer sales trends and woo an ever-growing customer base. Indeed, cheladas are poised to be a hot trend in the beer category this summer. 

Micheladas—typically comprised of lager, lime juice, hot sauce, spices, and sometimes tomato or clam juice—have long been the beer lover’s alternative to the Bloody Mary. But thanks to the strong growth of the Modelo Especial line of mostly fruit-forward cheladas in recent years, the products are gaining placement in cold boxes and on beer shelves across the country. “The strong performance of our flavors has enabled Modelo Chelada to become the No. 1 ready-to-drink chelada in the category,” says Greg Gallagher, senior vice president of brand marketing at Constellation Brands. For the 52 weeks ending April 21, dollar sales of Modelo Chelada increased more than 30%, notes Gallagher, pointing to Circana data. 

Modelo Chelada Especial—a mix of the popular Mexican brew, tomato, salt, and lime—was first introduced in 2013. Since then, Constellation Brands has launched six fruit-flavored line extensions in 24-ounce single-serve cans ($4), along with three different 12-packs of 12-ounce cans ($18). According to Gallagher, the brand surpassed sales volume of 20 million (2.25-gallon) cases in 2023. Indeed, for the last five years, Modelo Chelada has earned Hot Brand status from Impact Databank. 

Earlier this year, the Modelo Chelada line was expanded with the Fresca Picante (strawberry and chili pepper) expression, joining the portfolio’s other flavors—Limón y Sal, Mango y Chile, Piña Picante (pineapple and chili pepper), Naranja Picosa (spicy orange), and Sandia Picante (spicy watermelon). Modelo Negra, the brand’s dark lager sibling, has also expanded into cheladas, with the introduction of Modelo Chelada Negra con Chile this spring in select states. According to Gallagher, marketing support for Modelo Chelada will be expanded this summer “to further drive awareness and reach new flavor-seeking consumers.” Support includes English and Spanish language media, as well as the integration of Chelada into Modelo Especial retail and sponsorship programming to drive sampling opportunities. 

While Modelo Chelada is the category leader—Gallagher says it has a 67% dollar share—other brands also play a role. Mexican brews Tecate and Sol both front michelada or chelada line extensions, and Constellation Brands’ Victoria, a Vienna-style lager, launched Vicky Chamoy, a chamoy-flavored beer, with notes of sweet, salty, spicy, and sour, in 2022. Anheuser-Busch, meanwhile, has been marketing Budweiser and Bud Light cheladas, made with Clamato juice, for about 15 years. Last year, the Bud Light Chelada line was expanded with the introduction of the Tajín Chili Limón expression ($14 a 12-pack of 12-ounce cans), in partnership with Tajín USA, the chili powder marketer. 

Cheladas are largely sold as 24- or 25-ounce single-serve cans, and convenience stores have emerged as the largest trade channel for the products. Gallagher says that c-stores account for more than half of Modelo Chelada’s volume, and dollar sales in the channel jumped 27% in the most recent 52-week period. “Michelada is a hot category in our stores,” says Joseph Bickham, CEO of Fuel City, a chain of seven c-stores in the Dallas area. Blanca Ruiz, retail specialist at the chain, notes that the stores stock about 20 different chelada SKUs, and that Modelo Cheladas are among the stores’ top-selling items. At Miami-based Mendez Fuel, meanwhile, co-owner Andrew Mendez says, “Cheladas do very well at our stores, especially the stores that attract more Hispanic customers.” Modelo Chelada ($4) is the top seller at the chain, but “sales of Bud and Bud Light Cheladas have picked up lately,” Mendez notes. 

Both Mendez and Ruiz expect chelada growth to continue. The Miami retailer says he’s a bit surprised that other leading brands haven’t entered the segment, a move that would certainly drive awareness. According to Ruiz, the continued marketing and new flavor support from brands like Modelo will benefit beer retailers. “The popularity and consumer demand for cheladas is very high,” she says, “and we’ll continue to capitalize on these opportunities.”