Stella Artois

1 (1) Stella Artois

Sales: £489.1m Growth: -4.6%

They knew there would be consequences. But AB InBev says it had to step off the pile ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap merry-go-round that is the off-trade lager fixture to ensure the long-term health of its flagship brand.

After holding back the rising tide of increasing duty and input costs for years, the dam has now burst. The average price of Stella Artois has climbed 2.9%; Stella 4 has surged 9.2%. The latter has borne the brunt of the price increases with value and volume crashing by double digits, while the core brand’s decline has been more or less in line with the rest of the lager market.

The reasons for this are two-fold: not only has the price differential between the two narrowed by 10p a litre in the past year, but AB InBev has found it harder to differentiate between them since cutting the abv on the core brand to 4.8% in January 2012.

With Foster’s Brad and Dan breathing down Stella’s neck for the number one spot, the plan for the brand in the coming year is to run greater shopper engagement-based activity in-store and lay off simple, price-led promotions.

It might take more than that to stave off the advances of the Aussies, who have benefited from the launch of a premium variant in the shape of Foster’s Gold, though. But then Stella could have a trump card up his sleeve: the on-trade-only Stella Black could tap the growing trend in the off-trade for posher lagers, though AB InBev says it has no plans to launch it in the multiples.