Apparently people confuse Mexican Corona Extra beer with the deadly coronavirus from China. As cases of the novel virus spread across the globe, so has interest in the term “corona” as well as the two unusual search terms – “corona beer virus” and “beer virus”. Until January 20, Google Trends showed a constant interest in the term “corona” of 7 on a scale from 0 to 100. Until Thursday within only 10 days, the interest has risen up to the maximum of 100. Similarly, the interest in the search term “beer virus” and “corona beer virus” has gone from nearly 0 to 100 as well. But do people really believe that the virus is spread via the beer of the same name?
„We believe, by and large, that consumers understand there’s no linkage between the virus and our business,“ Maggie Bowman, senior director of communications - beer division at Corona’s producer Constellation Brands, told Business Insider. But if this is true, what is then the reason behind the interest in the unusual buzz words?
If one looks at the geographical spread of the Google search, it can be seen that the highest interest in the “corona beer virus” is in countries like Singapore, Cambodia, Cyprus and Estonia, while it is nearly non-existent in countries like Mexico, Brazil and France. One would assume that especially a country like Mexico, where the Corona Extra beer originates from, should be interested in getting to know about the risk of infection of drinking a beer with the same name as the virus.
Having a closer look at the matter helps to clarify things. There are plenty of jokes and memes circulating in social media about the coronavirus mostly linked with Corona Extra beer. One shows a Chinese drinking a bottle of Corona and the headline “Corona Virus patient Zero”. Another one was posted by The Postillon, saying that the Mexican beer rebrands as Ebola (“ Extremo abocado liquido con ácido ascórbico” or “very quaffable liquid containing ascorbic acid) to avoid association with coronavirus. Therefore it seems very likely that people looking for such jokes just pushed the trend barometer of Google Trends upwards.
“Corona” means “crown” in Latin and this is the only thing beer and virus have in common. Corona beer reportedly takes its name from the crown that adorns the church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Mexican town of Puerto Vallarta and the term “coronavirus” refers to a family of viruses that have spikes on their surfaces resembling little crowns. That’s all!
Will this negatively affect Corona Extra beer sales? Most probably not, says Joanne McNeish Associate Professor, Marketing at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada. “I think Corona will be fine by virtue of the type of product it is. Beer is a not ‘serious’ food but associated with good times and relaxing. They should continue with business and promoting the brand as usual,” she was quoted in the Financial Post.
Corona Extra is a Mexican beer that belongs since 2012 to AB InBev when the world’s largest brewer took over Mexico’s Grupo Modelo for USD 20.1 billion. However, antitrust rules asked AB InBev to sell the U.S. rights for its Mexican beer brands. In 2013 Constellation Brands, a public traded company, which had long focused on wine and spirits, acquired in a USD 5.3 billion deal with AB InBev the rights to sell Corona and Modelo beers in the U.S. The deal also included the brewery Compañía Cervecera de Coahuila in Piedras Negras in Mexico which had by that time a capacity of 25 million hectoliters and was one of the biggest breweries in the world.
In November 2019, AB InBev announced to start local production of Corona in Brazil, Colombia, Belgium and in the UK. Production in China already started in May 2019 (inside.beer, 5.11.2019).