As the world’s finance network sweated through a series of multi-billion bank bailouts and skittering FTSE graphs, Magners has sulked into the headlines with a good old-fashioned moan about the weather. Not even a hefty TV ad spend could stop the rainy summer sinking Magners’ half-year sales by 13%, admitted Maurice Pratt, boss of parent company C&C Group, as he announced his resignation.

But the Irish champion should look beyond the rain clouds to explain its fizzling from grace. Despite its sales growth peaking at 225% in the hot summer of 2006, Magners’ troubles really began in May that year, when S&N launched Bulmers in the UK in a brazen act of over-ice mimicry. Benefiting from heavyweight investment and an aggressive pricing strategy, Bulmers has steadily eaten into Magners’ market share and sales continue to grow at more than five times the rate of its Irish rival.

Heineken’s takeover of S&N leaves Bulmers with even more marketing muscle, a cheaper price position and wider distribution. And with recession looming, perhaps Pratt knew the time was right to move on.

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