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Bottler News

Tracking Competitor Developments


Korean Boycott Crimps Asahi Beer Sales, Boosts Heineken

South Korea’s voluntary boycott of Japanese beer has had a major impact: once-favorite Asahi reported a sales plunge of 72 percent last year. Meanwhile, Heineken’s sales in the country rose eight percent and 14 percent from 2018 when the campaign against Japanese products began. At that time, Tokyo placed restrictions on exports of semiconductor materials and display panels considered vital to South Korea’s technology industry. The move was viewed as retaliation for a South Korean supreme court ruling that called on Japanese companies to pay compensation for their use of forced labor during Japan’s 1910-45 occupation of the Korean peninsula.

Japan’s Move To Include Alcohol Grams On Beer Labels Worries Brewers

Though the Japanese government has not yet formally introduced rules requiring alcohol producers to include alcohol content by grams on labels – not just ABV percent – brewery giants Asahi and Kirin are reacting cautiously. Local industry experts say the major industry players have already been asked to add by-gram information on their labels. The government is apparently trying to tighten control over alcoholic content after years of lax monitoring. One observer said “the government is looking to portray more responsibility about high alcohol, as much as they can.” Observers predict that if one of the big breweries goes along with a government suggestion – Asahi, for example – the rest will follow along.

Asahi Beverages Sources Barley From Aussie Farmers For Popular Beers

Beginning with the first batch of new beers produced next month, the Tokyo-based company, owner of Carlton & United Breweries (CUB), will use barley purchased directly from Australian farmers to brew some of the country’s best-loved beers for the first time in decades. According to CUB, the new supply chain gives the company clear oversight of the barley growing process to ensure only the best barley is used to brew beers such as Victoria Bitter, Carlton Draught, Great Northern, and Pure Blonde. The new supply chain means more than 90 percent of Asahi Beverages’ barley is purchased direct from farmers, in line with quality and sustainability requirements. More than one million tons of malting barley are produced by Australian farmers each year for brewing in Australia and overseas.

Fuller’s Griffin Brewery Unveils New Brand Identity For Flagship Ale

The iconic cask ale Fuller’s London Pride is unveiling a “striking” new package design for 2021 for on- and off-trade that features a new logo, typography, glassware, pump clip and point of sale materials. According to the company, the contemporary look was inspired by its heritage, long standing traditional brewing methods, and craftsmanship, all centered around the message of an “Outstanding Amber Ale.” The $799 million cask ale category in the U.K. is very valuable to the beer market: cask ale drinkers spend twice as much as other adult drinkers and are most looking forward to returning to the on-trade. Off-trade bottled and packaged ale business increased in value by 26.8 percent during the pandemic.  

Asahi Group Is Optimistic About 2021, Thanks To Acquisition Of CUB

Despite the negative effects of COVID-19 in 2020 – both revenue and operating profit dropped significantly – the Tokyo-based beverage company expects 2021 to be rosier, in part because of expected growth in the lower-alcohol beer category in Australia. The acquisition of Carlton and United Breweries (CUB) last year turned Asahi’s Oceania business into one of its three core pillars, along with Japan and Europe. Revenue for the Oceania business reached ¥344 billion ($3.1 billion) last year, an increase of 92 percent. This was driven by the consolidation of the CUB business, and also growth in RTD and carbonated drinks categories. This year, Asahi expects 13 percent revenue growth and 30 percent core operating profit growth “driven by recovery of existing businesses” and CUB consolidation.


Beam Suntory Introduces Full Bottle Koyomi Shochu Spirit In Australia

The single-distilled Japanese spirt, made from barley and with an ABV of 25 percent, is meant to be drunk on ice or warm. Chu-hu is the most popular form of Shochu, and is a mix of Koyomi Shochu, soda, ice, and fresh fruit juice. Koyomi Shochu (700 ml) will arrive on shelves in June at leading liquor stores at an RRP of $42-$47. The company launched a Koyomi Highball in ready-to-drink cans in the Australian market last year

Beam Suntory Expands Vodka Lineup

The Pinnacle Vodka range will now include Pinnacle Light & Ripe, a new zero-sugar vodka line in two flavors: apricot honeysuckle (apricot with honeysuckle undertones), and guava lime (guava and lime peel). The brand contains fewer than 75 calories per 1.5 oz serving. With an SRP of $10.99 per 750 ml bottle, the 60-proof product line is available in U.S. stores and through Drizly and ReserveBar.


Britvic Introduces Branded Tonic Water Into Convenience Channel

The U.K.-based beverage company is launching its formerly on-trade only Indian Tonic Water in 12-bottle (850 ml) cases into the wholesale and convenience channels in classic and low-calorie variants for the first time. A Britvic representative said private label traditionally dominates the segment from a volume perspective, but branded mixers are adding more value with over three times the price per liter. Well-known in the out of home and pub markets, the company expects the brand’s popularity to translate to the at-home market too.


Carlsberg Vietnam Revamps its “Elephant Beer” Brand Halida

The Hue-based brewer’s revamp will give the brand a new liquid and a new packaging that “takes consumers’ beer experience to a higher level of freshness.” The brand, which joined the Carlsberg Vietnam lineup in 1993, is known as "the elephant beer," from the graphics on the label. Halida’s new liquid is brewed with special Tetra hops and spring barley from Europe, which offer a more refreshing taste that balances bitterness with a crispy dry taste. The new package design introduces an upgraded version of Halida’s signature elephant and a newly added blue color.

Carlsberg Suspends 0 Percent ABV Nordic Sales In U.K.

A Carlsberg Marston spokesman said Nordic, originally launched last year in 170 Tesco stores in the country as a replacement for Carlsberg 0.0, “will no longer be part of out low- and no-alcohol portfolio in the U.K.” Details behind the decision were not disclosed. Carlsberg's no- and low-alcohol beer offerings in the U.K. include San Miguel 0,0, Brooklyn Special Effects, Erdinger Alkoholfrei, and Shipyard Low Tide. The company said it has further plans for the category this year.


Asahi CEO Sees Bright Future For Its Super Dry Beer

The new CEO, appointed in February to guide the company out of the pandemic and back to normalcy, says he wants the Asahi Super Dry “draft beer in a can” to break into the top of 10 beers by 2030, even after losing domestic market share to rivals and seeing profits drop 30 percent last year. Atsushi Katsuki says this can be accomplished by focusing on urban drinkers in Europe and China, and by a return to pre-pandemic conditions through vaccinations. “It may take a few years, but we think there’s a big opportunity in expanding as a premium, high-end beer in large cities in countries we’re in,” he said. The new canned “draft” beers are made so that the entire lid can be popped off, creating the head of foam you get in draft beers poured from a tap. The beers have been flying off grocery and convenience store shelves since their introduction in Japan earlier this month. 

Suntory Debuts Alcohol-Free “Beer-Like Beverage”

The Tokyo-based distiller and brewer’s alcohol-free, beer-like beverage, All-Free, is now available in the U.S. The beverage contains with zero calories, no alcohol, and no artificial flavors or sweeteners. Suntory uses only the two-row barley malt and 100 percent Tennensui natural mineral water. The recipe, according to the company, “enables the removal of the fermentation process entirely and delivers a specialty beer-like beverage.” Suntory All-Free sparkling malt & hops beverage is available via Amazon.com, as well as select retailers in the U.S. A single 350 ml can is $2.49, but it is also available in a four-pack and a six-pack.

Britvic Explores Options As It Seeks To Boost Pandemic-Battered Business

The British beverage company, determined to recover from sagging sales and earnings during the pandemic year, turned to premiumization, ecommerce, and low-calorie drinks to jump-start its business. Thanks to COVID-19, sales from the closed hospitality sector slid 8.6 percent to $1.9 billion in the year ended 30 September 2020. Adjusted earnings were down 22.6 percent. To counter these trends, the company invested heavily in premium innovations and brand extensions such as Robinsons Cordials, Purdey's multi-vitamin drink and its Mathieu Teisseire bartender range. Low- and no-calorie drinks accounted for 75 percent of all volume sold globally. And the company focused on ecommerce, which delivered retail value growth of 56 percent, increasing its share to over 22 percent of online grocery sales.


Beam Suntory Names Executive To Manage The Company’s Digital Products And Experience

The Chicago-based spirits company has appointed former Diageo executive Venky Iyer as vice president for digital products with a mission to outline strategy to “build momentum and ‘rapidly advance’ Beam Suntory’s digital agenda.” Iyer spent 15 years working at Diageo in roles focused on digital marketing, ecommerce, and digital innovation. He started and grew business-critical partnerships with various digital and ecommerce platforms, and launched Diageo’s ‘technology futures’ group to invest in startups involved in online discovery, shopping, and brand experience. Last month, Beam Suntory revealed plans to invest £6 million ($8.3 million) in Highland Scotch distillery Glen Garioch to reintroduce floor maltings and other “traditional processes” to the site.

Suntory Holdings To Expand Gin Distillery In Osaka

To meet rising domestic and international demand for gin, the Tokyo-based beverage company plans to spend about $30 million on expansion of the Osaka plant, whose bottling capacity will be doubled when it opens in 2022. The fact that more people are drinking at home because of the pandemic has not hurt Suntory's shipments of craft gin, which rose 22 percent in 2020. Sales of domestic gin overtook those of imported brands in Japan last year, mainly because Japanese drinkers prefer domestic spirits as "a good fit for their taste," the company says.
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