Demand for brewed-at-source beers looks set to continue with consumers buying into specialist beers from far-flung places.
Interbrew UK has announced its commitment to the category and its launches of Brazilian Brahma and Belgian Artois Bock are likely to be followed by other exotic launches next year.
“This year is a key time for specialist beers as sales momentum builds, spearheaded by the development of the power brands of the category, Hoegaarden and Leffe,” says Interbrew UK MD of take-home sales Stuart MacFarlane. He notes that Interbrew is planning heavy investment into its Leffe brand this summer.
Ged Futter, beer buyer at Asda, says that despite loyalty to the old favourites, specialist beer sales are very encouraging as customers look for new and exciting products.
And new products are emerging. Heineken is set to make an impact on the imported beer market with the addition of the Italian Birra Moretti, Italy’s best-performing beer, to its portfolio.
“We have been pleased with its performance in the on-trade and we are now planning to do some calendar activity in the off-trade,” says Simon Green, business development manager for Birra Moretti. “We are working with Asda to tie it in with their delis and pizzas. Pairing it with food is a key element of developing brand recognition.”
Established brands are also speaking positively about the future of the sector. “By its nature, it will remain a small sector, but its potential has yet to be fully maximised by either retailers or consumers,” says Mike Teague, sales director for Bavaria UK. “Consumers are developing a taste for specialist beers - Bavaria’s own specialist beer La Trappe has already experienced strong double-digit growth this year.”
Mexican lager Corona is also celebrating strong sales for 2004 and its Corona Extra has risen to seventh place on ACNielsen’s list of the top 10 premium packaged lagers, just behind Nastro Azzuro and ahead of San Miguel in eighth position [ACNielsen MAT 52 w/e September 2004].
Angel Garcia Gomez, who heads up Corona Extra in the UK, says: “We have always been convinced that the brand’s global position could at least be matched, if not bettered, in the UK. I am confident the success story will continue with Corona Extra making further inroads into the league of top-selling PPL brands.”
American specialist beers are also capturing the interest of consumers. Company Value, importer of the American Rogue Ales brand, recently secured UK listings.
Peter Thomas, Company Value MD, says: “The time is ripe for an innovative, unique American beer to stamp its mark on the UK market; hence the launch of new Rogue Ales from Oregon.”
Distributor Hamana has also noted growth for its US beer brand Tooheys New, as well as its Steinlager brand from New Zealand. Geoff Bradman, MD of Hamana, says: “This summer the genuine, premium imported beer market will fuel growing consumer interest as other areas of the drinks market become increasingly commoditised.”