TRU Colors has partnered with national beverage company Molson Coors, which has made an equity investment in the local brewery to accelerate its growth, according to a news release.
The amount of the investment from Chicago-based Molson Coors Beverage Co. was not disclosed.
The partnership, however, will also involve the distribution of TRU Colors' new brew when it's released this summer.
TRU Colors plans to distribute its beer across North Carolina this summer and later this year in Virginia,
with plans to expand nationally in about two years of launching the brewery operation, said George Taylor, chairman and CEO of TRU Colors.
TRU Colors looked at several “significant brewery partners” but chose Molson Coors because of its commitment to diversity and inclusion and social justice, Taylor said Wednesday.
“So not only do they provide all of the things that you would expect from a great strategic partner on a business side, but they align so well with our social mission platform,” Taylor said.
TRU Colors will be distributing its beer exclusively through Molson Coors' network of distributors, he said.
“They're one of the top two or three players in the world, certainly in the US. And so, when you partner
with someone like MolsonCoors and you begin speaking with large grocery chains or venue chains it gives us a leg up in helping share the message and share why our beer is important,” Taylor said. “So from a distribution standpoint, it really makes a big difference to have Molson partnering with us.”
Along with the equity investment, Molson Coors will serve as a strategic partner to assist TRU Colors "with distribution strategy, brand positioning, supplier relationships, marketing and advertising consultation and product formulation," stated the release.
TRU Colors is a for-profit brewery that hires Wilmington gang members and those involved in the gang community to help combat street violence and unite the community.
Taylor said the partnership with Molson Coors will help scale TRU Colors' mission nationally in the coming years.
For Molson Coors, this is not only a strategic investment but also a move that aligns with the company's goal of "increasing representation of people of color in our US operations by 25% by the end of 2023 across the country," stated the release.
“Last summer we said we were committed to meaningful long-term change inside and outside our business, and would make better efforts to leave a positive impact in communities throughout the country,” said Gavin Hattersley, CEO of Molson Coors Brewing Co., in the release. “This partnership represents an opportunity to not only invest in what we believe will be a successful business, but also in a brand with a strong social justice presence that will have an immeasurable positive impact on hundreds of lives.”
TRU (which stands for truth, responsibility and unity) Colors was founded by Taylor, who was inspired to form the company following the gang-related shooting death of a 16-year-old in Wilmington.
The company has about 65 employees, 50 of whom are local gang members. Along with its employees, TRU Colors has invested in the buildout of its 56,000-square-foot headquarters and brewery
off Greenfield Street in Wilmington to support its business model and social mission.
The headquarters holds TRU Colors' corporate offices and brewery and will feature a wellness center, gym, recording studio, classrooms for education and coaching and a designated space for the “street intervention team."
The brewery is capable of producing over 1 million cases per year. It will soon release TRU Light, its debut product, a "lager that bridges modern craft with iconic American beer," stated the release.
TRU Colors plans to brew with the capacity it has in Wilmington, with some expansion, but in the coming years plans to take the social mission and brewery production to other cities, adding to the existing brewery capacity and spreading the social mission elsewhere.
"It’s important to us and also to Molson Coors that our mission is scaled nationally and we have a handful of cities that have recruited us very strongly," Taylor said, adding that he could not share the details of where that national scale would take place and at what time.
Along with the partnership and with the upcoming launch this summer, TRU Colors will be looking to hire more than 20 additional employees, both gang members and others outside gangs experienced in the brewery business.
“At TRU Colors, we believe most street violence is driven by a lack of economic opportunity and societal exclusion, and therefore an inclusive economic solution is needed to stop it," Taylor said in the release. "Brewed by once bitter rivals, our beer will be a symbol of the understanding and unity that’s possible when people are open to change.
"Through our partnership with Molson Coors, and the incredible talent of our team, the opportunities for our business and social impact are endless.”