Let’s be clear. This is not about Stella’s ‘wifebeater’ tag. With brewers struggling with duty hikes and cost increases, something had to give.
For AB InBev, the decision to cut the strength of Stella Artois, Budweiser and Beck’s is certainly timely - coming in the week the All-Party Parliamentary beer Group raised a glass to lower-alcohol beers and their contribution to responsible drinking.
But while AB InBev points to “evolving trends” towards lower-strength beer, the £8.6m o -trade annual duty saving on Stella alone is a nudge in its own right for new boss Inge Plochaet, particularly in light of the £11.6m decline in Stella sales last year [Nielsen 52 w/e 1 October 2011].
The reduction might put a few punters off, but the majority probably won’t bat an eyelid as long as the 4.8% brews deliver on taste.
A far riskier game would be for the brewer to lack the fighting fund necessary to invest in the promotions that will be demanded of it during Euro 2012 and the Olympics - in a year that might give the takehome lager market the kickstart it needs.