Clarity around your desired brand positioning is critical. But brands can play different roles for different companies, as well different consumers. The recent announcement of Japan’s Asahi’s $16 billion purchase of beer maker Carlton & United Breweries is a reminder of the leverage an attractive portfolio of brands can offer companies from a strategic perspective. In fact the commentary around the acquisition has largely focused on the business benefits of economies of scale and distribution muscle versus the individual market positioning of the brands being acquired.
Australian Executive Chairman of Asahi Peter Margin simply referencing the great scale the ‘local goliath’ offers.
“It gives us great scale. It certainly gives us scale around manufacturing, logistics and probably more importantly around marketing capability,” said Mr Margin. The beer brands being acquired include Carlton Draught, Victoria Bitter, Melbourne Bitter, Cascade, Crown Lager and the relative newcomer Great Northern. They are rather iconic brands in their own right, but little has been spoken about their market propositions by Asahi, rather the business benefits of immediate market share ie moving from approx 2% to 50% as a result of the buy.
But the acquisition is strategic far beyond what it means here in Australia. While the Australian beer market isn’t growing, it is mature, stable and high-margin. By buying into The Aussie beer market it dilutes the Japanese brewer’s exposure to a home market where an ageing and shrinking population creates an intensifying challenge.
This all contrasts greatly with how the independent brewers have responded. Yep, different strokes for different folks. They have doubled down on reinforcing their ‘fresh, artisan and innovative’ market offerings. Co-owner of Bodriggy Brewing Co, Peter Walsh, recently stating, ‘the way that CUB and Asahi make a lot of their beers are pasteurised and mass produced and there is not much difference between a two-day old beer and five-year-old beer. Whereas the whole craft industry is people appreciating freshness and local and artisan.’
As a beer drinker Walsh is even challenging me on where I should in fact live. Fresh is best. He believes the main reason the whole brew pub thing is working and the craft industry is booming is people are starting to appreciate that if you are going to drink a good beer make sure it is fresh. He suggests a good way to do that is to live near a brewery. This is clearly where I have been misled. I have simply been making sure I was in striking distance of beverage big box distributor Dan Murphy’s.
And to remind me further that the market does segment in very different ways – not only have I been a regular visitor to Dan’s for my packaged beer (and wine) I have been for a long time purchasing Victoria Bitter. It may not be fashionable but as their long standing tag line says…’for a hard earned thirst.’ Say no more.