Home' National Liquor News : NLN MAR 2016 Contents LOW CARB/MID STRENGTH BEERS
n the generally declining beer category low-carb and mid-strength
beers account for more than one-third of the off-premise packaged
beer market, according to leading industry analysts IRi’s Market Edge
report to 3 January 2016.
More importantly both segments in particular are on the rise. The
latest IRi report shows six per cent value growth in the low-carb beer
segment in the 12 months to 3 January 2016. The mid-strength segment
saw 3.7 per cent value growth over the same period. In volume terms
mid-strength is the second biggest category, behind full strength, while
low-carb is the fourth biggest. But Pure Blonde’s marketing manager Mim
Orlando believes there is scope for the low-carb category to evolve as
well as grow.
“I think that the low-carb category will continue to grow but I think
it will also evolve,” Orlando says. “As consumers’ wants and needs
evolve and what is important to them and what they do and don’t want
in their beer, I think we will need, as a beer category, to monitor where
consumers’ wants and needs and trends are going in this broader space
and be reactive to that.”
And for Pure Blonde there was a big change last year, when the brand,
and the beer, got a makeover to lower its carbohydrates and the calories.
While Orlando admits that there was both good and bad feedback, the
sales of the beer have been very strong and the brand enjoyed its best
Christmas in years.
“Sales have been really strong and we’re super excited by the way that
consumers have responded and how they are voting with their feet. We
had our biggest Christmas in six years, which is really exciting for us.
“The brand has really turned around and we’ve had a double-digit
turnaround in performance and for us that is more than we hoped
for and it’s an endorsement that consumers are really happy with the
decisions that were made, so we’re really excited about that.
“We received a lot feedback, both good and bad and it’s never good to
hear that some of our drinkers are either not happy with the change or
feel like the taste has changed. We did a lot of sensory work to make sure
that we maintained the same brewing profile for the beer and we’re really
happy with that work.
“We do have a lot of sentiment and feedback that suggests a lot of
consumers are really happy with the change, but at the same time we
never want any of our drinkers to leave or consider other alternatives, so
we’re hoping that with time they will reconsider and start coming back.
But in general the direction that we’re heading and knowing what we
want Pure Blonde to be and the kind of lifestyle that we want to support,
we think that we’ve made the right decision.”
The sessionability of low-carb and mid-strength beers and the fact they
afford consumers a more convenient way to monitor either their alcohol
or nutritional intake, are just two factors behind what has helped to
drive the growth in both segments. It is widely accepted that health and
wellbeing are becoming more important factors among many Australian
consumers and low-carb and mid-strength beers can more readily enable
those lifestyle choices.
As DrinkWise Australia says: “When enjoyed in moderation, alcohol
can form part of a healthy lifestyle that includes good diet and exercise.
On the other hand, excessive drinking can have harmful effects on your
health. Many Australians enjoy having a drink, but not a lot of people
realise how alcohol can affect their physical, social and mental health.”
One company that is doing particularly well in the mid-strength
category is Coopers and its distribution company Premium Beverages.
In the 2015 calendar year Coopers brewery enjoyed a record year,
particularly boosted by strong sales of its Mild Ale, an impressive result given
that overall beer consumption in Australia fell over the same timeframe.
Sales of Mild Ale 3.5% increased by an impressive 13.7 per cent in
2015, highlighting the both growing and continuing consumer desire
for mid-strength beers. That growth means that Mild Ale 3.5% is now
just behind Pale Ale and Sparkling Ale as the third most popular brew
for Coopers. Sparkling Ale experienced 1.8 per cent growth in the 2015
calendar year, so it is highly likely that by the end of 2016 Mild Ale will
be Coopers’ second best-selling beer.
The brewer has also been working closely with Carlsberg on Carlsberg Mid
3.5%, which is now part of the Coopers Brewing international portfolio.
Coopers’ national sales and marketing director Cam Pearce believes
that the mid-strength segment will continue to expand.
“The recent launch of Carlsberg Mid 3.5% is expected to generate
significant activity during the next 12 months,” Pearce says. “The new
beer is an all malt light, easy drinking lager which complements Coopers’
mid-strength ale, Coopers Mild 3.5%.
“The new contract is an extension to the existing arrangement under
which Coopers brews Carlsberg at its Regency Park brewery. The beer
is distributed nationally by Coopers’ distribution company, Premium
Beverages. The launch of Carlsberg Mid 3.5% will be supported by a
range of on-premise and off-premise activities.”
And in terms of what is driving the popularity of low-carb and mid-
strength beers, Pearce highlights the improvement in the actual brews, as
well as the consumer trend for drinking less alcohol.
Pearce adds: “Mid-strength beers have been growing in popularity
in recent years as the quality and taste of these beers has improved and
people are looking to consume less alcohol. The ability to have two or
three drinks after work and still be under the legal limit has played an
important role in this.
“Beers such as the full flavoured Coopers Mild 3.5% have helped
improve the standing of mid-strength beers.”
And for the future? “Mid-strength beers made up the strongest
growing beer category in Australia during 2014-15 and Coopers believes
this sector will continue to expand,” says Pearce.
ADVICE FOR RETAILERS
Another international brewer to have recently made its move into
Australia’s mid-strength segment is Asahi, which launched its Soukai
beer in October. Marketing manager at Asahi Premium Beverages,
Michael Vousden is another who highlights the “macroeconomic trend
in Australia towards ‘better for you’ products,” as one of the key reasons
these segments are enjoying the growth that they are.
Vousden adds that Soukai is already performing well, after only
launching in October and that Asahi “expects the strong growth and
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