MaxiNutrition RWC campaign

Rugby fans are scoring bargains in the beer aisle right now, with many major brands cheaper today than they were during the 2011 World Cup.

Echoing the steep discounting seen during the football World Cup last summer, the average price of a litre of the five biggest lager brands has fallen 5.7% compared with the same period four years ago (28 Sept 2011 vs 28 Sept 2015).

“The Rugby World Cup being on home soil carries greater sales potential than normal, and events are simply great collateral for retailers and suppliers alike,” said one industry insider.

Looking only at SKUs on sale now and in 2011, the average price of a litre of Britain’s top-selling lager, Stella Artois, is down 9% over the period, driven by steep discounts on its larger packs of cans. Shoppers are paying £12 for a pack of 18 x 440ml cans in Sainsbury’s compared with the £18.99 they were forking out during the 2011 tournament in New Zealand, and £13 in Asda versus £15.49 four years ago. 

Carling and Carlsberg - which has just lost most of its Tesco listings (see p4) have also been deeply discounted. But in contrast to activity during the football World Cup, Foster’s has fallen just 2.9% to £1.71 - last June the average litre price fell 16.5% from £1.88 four years ago to £1.57.

Foster’s owner Heineken - which also produces John Smith’s Extra Smooth, currently 6.2% cheaper than in 2011 - said more than nine out of 10 rugby fans would be watching the action at home and almost half of these would be drinking beer. Heineken is a Tier 1 sponsor.

“Keen pricing is now a feature of big sporting occasions and the Rugby World Cup is a huge opportunity to increase footfall and sales,” said Heineken off-trade director Craig Clarkson. 

The drop in the price of John Smith’s pales in comparison with brands in the burgeoning premium bottled ale (PBA) category, such as Greene King’s Old Speckled Hen and Marston’s Hobgoblin. Hen four-packs are typically £1 cheaper than in 2011, while single bottles are now £1.25 versus about £1.69 four years ago. 

In addition to the current boom in interest in PBAs, the increase in pricing activity was also a result of the discounters ramping up the range of PBAs they carried, suggested one ­senior supermarket buyer.

“Discounters are now selling a number of these brands as it’s all incremental to them and, consequently, the mainstream retailers have had to follow that pricing down,” he added.