Posted May 2013
Austria - Together we are stronger
Why is it when you talk to Josef Sigl and his son Seppi of the Trumer Brewery you get the impression that they are fairly pleased with their lot? Is it because they regularly scoop prizes for Trumer Pils as the best German-style pilsner in the world - albeit always competing for the top spot with Trumer Pils brewed in Berkeley, United States, by their friends at the Gambrinus Company?
Or is it because they can still rely on the on-trade sector to sell most of their beer? According to Josef Sigl, 90 percent of their beer output is sold in pubs and restaurants across the country. That way, he says, he can buck the price dictatorship of the supermarkets.
Actually, Austria's brewers on the whole seem to have it much better than their neighbours do: they have been successful in maintaining high beer sales. Domestic beer sales have consistently hovered around the 8.5 million hl mark since 2000. Austrians, on average, drink about 107 litres (2012) per year, which is an astounding "self-preservation rate", as some Austrians jokingly put it, because on a global scale they are only bested by the Czech (145 litres per capita).
Therefore, it's widely assumed that brewers' profits aren't all that bad since Austrians like to enjoy a beer in company and in pubs (over 30 percent of volume sales are in the on-premise), where prices for 0.5 litre of beer range between EUR 3.80 and EUR 4.00 (USD 5.00 to USD 5.20).
Although Austria's brewers so far have been lucky in warding off the worst excesses of the Europe-wide ban on smoking in pubs - most pubs and restaurants have sections for smokers - which has helped on-trade sales, they nevertheless have had to contend with a gradual shift of volumes from the on-premise to the off-premise. As Mr Sigl readily admits, this has affected Trumer adversely. Though widening their distribution reach, volume sales have suffered.
However, high volumes and good profits cannot be the only reasons why the country's 170 or so brewers refrain from moaning about their lot. The sweep of globalisation did not stop at their borders. Dutch brewer Heineken owns Brau Union with eight breweries and a market share of 49 percent. The privately-owned Stiegl brewery and the Ottakringer brewery are ranked second and third and control about 20 percent of the market. This leaves the "Culturbrauereien" ("culture breweries"), a club of nine privately-owned breweries set up by Mr Sigl and Hubert Stöhr of the Schloss Eggenberg brewery in 2008, with merely 13 percent, media say.
Interestingly, market consolidation has not lead to a rift among brewers. If my observations are anything to go by, Austria's microbrewers don't feel compelled to adopt an "us-against-them" attitude that can be noticed elsewhere in Europe. Rather, what makes them stick out is a deeply felt enthusiasm for their craft, which in turn is fed by a generally positive societal attitude towards beer. In Austria, beer has not been turned into the scapegoat for all that ails society, nor has its status degenerated to a fast moving consumer good on par with washing powder, chocolates and coffee.
One reason for consumers still holding beer in high esteem is that brewers have put a lot of effort into underlining beer's cultural value. From Trumer's design-driven pub paraphernalia to their engagement in the arts, a lot of thought and effort has gone into emphasising beer's continuing relevance for a contemporary lifestyle. Stressing their beers' quality, diversity and regionality has helped too.
What is more, brewers have begun to put their faces to their beers. Taking their cue from the country's vintners, personality marketing is now a must. Some older readers will remember that Austria's vintners were in the doghouse for many years following the discovery of large-scale glycol adulterations in 1985. If vintners have since risen from the ashes to international acclaim it's because they have realised that in the public mind the link between "my name - my face - my honour" and their products works miracles. Read on
Australia - Coca-Cola Amatil and retailers quarrel over "the right price"
The recent spat between Coca-Cola Amatil's CEO Terry Davis and Australia's major retailers over why CCA's products are several times more expensive in Australia than, for example, in Thailand, is as much a political battle as it is an economic one.
Ian McLeod, the Managing Director of Coles, a chain of supermarkets, had complained to Australian media that Coca-Cola was two to three times more expensive in Australia than in Thailand. Mr McLeod mentioned the price of Coca-Cola in his renewed attack on multinational suppliers, saying consumers are paying too much for groceries.
This broadside apparently angered Mr Davis so much that he too used the media to reply: "Do we want to be a country that has no food security, do we want to be a country that pays our workers AUD 1.50 to AUD 2.50 (USD 1.50 to USD 2.50) an hour?" Read on
UK - New CEO for Diageo
Denmark - Asia lights up Carlsberg's first quarter results
The Indian-born Ivan Menezes, 53, currently Chief Operating Officer of Diageo, is to succeed Paul Walsh as CEO of the drinks giant behind Smirnoff and Guinness at the beginning of July this year.
Mr Walsh, 58, who has headed Diageo for the past 13 years, will stay on board until June 2014, though, to help with the transition, media reported on 7 May 2013. Many observers think that Mr Walsh will be mainly responsible for completing the purchase of a 53.4 percent stake in India’s biggest drinks maker United Spirits, which began in November 2012 and has since stalled.
Several media thought it worth mentioning that Mr Menezes, who joined Diageo in 1997, is yet another business leader who stems from a developing country to lead a FTSE100 consumer goods firm, joining fellow Indian Rakesh Kapoor, who heads Durex owned Reckitt Benckiser, and Nicandro Durante, the Brazilian at the helm of tobacco giant BAT.
Interestingly, media failed to mention SABMiller, another FTSE100 company. SABMiller's past and present CEO were both born in South Africa.
They could have also included in this list of CEOs the Brazilian-born Carlos Brito (AB-InBev), the Indian born Indra Nooyi (PepsiCo) and the Turkish-American Muhtar Kent (The Coca-Cola Company), although their respective companies are not listed on the London Stock Exchange.
Their appointment not only reflects a shift in their companies' focus from slow growth Europe to the booming emerging markets, as media commentators have said. It is also indicative, in my view, of a shift in management style. Read on
On 7 May 2013 Carlsberg reported a 22 percent rise in first-quarter operating profits and a 3 percent rise in revenues as strong beer sales in Asia more than compensated for sluggish European markets.
Beer sales in Asia accounted for nearly 20 percent of group revenue in the first quarter ending March, approaching Eastern Europe sales which accounted for 22 percent. The two-digit percentage rise in Asian revenue was helped by higher beer sales in countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia and India, as well as Carlsberg's increase in ownership at the Chongqing Jianiang Brewery joint venture. Read on
Netherlands - Heinken may sell its Dutch soft drink business
Is Heineken selling
non-core businesses in a desperate attempt to lift this year's
earnings? According to rumour, Heineken will off-load its
Finnish business in the coming months. And on 3 May 2013
international media reported that the brewer is also seeking a
buyer for its Vrumona soft-drink business in the Netherlands.
Insiders say Vrumona
could fetch at least EUR 500 million (USD 660 million). Add to
that the EUR 590 million (USD 790 million) Heineken could reap
from the sale of its Finnish subsidiary Hartwall and Heineken
looks set to net about EUR 1.0 billion from this fire sale.
market observers have speculated that the Hartwall family's
investment vehicle Hartwall Capital could be the most likely
buyer for the Finnish business, thus returning it to the
previous owners who sold it to brewer Scottish & Newcastle in
2002, no buyer has been mentioned yet for Vrumona.
Germany - Anti-cartel bloodhounds are after Gaffel Brewery's co-owner
Australia - SABMiller asks government to freeze
The Federation of
Rhine-Westphalian Breweries is facing antitrust proceedings by
the German authorities. According to Cologne newspapers of 30
April 2013, several of the Federation's top officials have been
involved in illegal price fixing.
The Bonn-based antitrust
authorities have now opened formal proceedings against Heinrich
Becker, co-owner of the Gaffel Brewery in Cologne and President
of the Federation as well as against his deputy Michael
Hollmann, owner of the Bolten Brewery.
Mr Becker chaired at least
two of the Federation's meetings in 2006 and 2007 when
"anti-competitive price agreements" were taken which have led to
"spiralling prices for draught and bottled beer", newspapers
say. At the meetings Mr Hollmann,
according to witness statements, instructed the Federation's
Secretary to delete controversial paragraphs from the protocol,
saying that these "are not for the eyes of the competition
watchdogs". Both Mr Becker and Mr Hollmann sit on the board of
the German Brewers' Association.
In March this year, it was
revealed that the competition watchdog is investigating more
than a dozen German brewing companies with a combined market
share of 50 percent over illegal practices. A spokesperson for
the antitrust body confirmed investigations into 14 national
brewing companies plus one industry federation but would not
disclose further details.
April 2013 submission to the Federal Treasury, Carlton & United
Breweries (CUB), the Australian unit of SABMiller (formerly
known as Foster's) maintained that "the beer industry is no
longer recession proof and it’s time that beer received similar
favours to those enjoyed by wine and other beverages." CUB asked
the Treasurer to follow the lead of the UK government, which
earlier this year cut beer excise for the first time in over
half a century, saying that tax now makes up 50 percent of the
price of a case of VB, its major-selling beer.
Ireland - Craft
It seems to be a common
feature of mature beer markets around the world: volumes of
craft beer rise while overall beer consumption declines. Same in
Ireland. For several years now, beer consumption has gone south.
Last year it dropped 1.8 percent on 2011 while the value of the
beer market dipped by a similar 1.8 percent or EUR 400 million
to EUR 2.45 billion, says Heineken. Per capita beer consumption
now stands at about 86 litres, down from 90 litres in 2010.
response to this trend, major brewers have rejigged their
strategies. U.S.-Canadian brewer Molson Coors, though a distant
number three player in Ireland (behind Diageo and Heineken), has
recently launched a range of craft beers – The Craft Collection
– which, it claims, will bring together its "growing range of
award-winning Irish and international craft beers for pubs and
off-licences across Ireland under one umbrella brand offering".
AB-InBev blames it on the weather
Now we all know why
AB-InBev is so keen on closing the Modelo deal: Corona beer is
expected to bring home the bacon as the world's number one
brewer is facing declining volumes in its most important
markets. On 30 April 2013 AB-InBev reported that volumes in most
markets, except for China, had fallen in the first quarter.
Overall beer sales were down 4.1 percent in the first quarter
Beer volumes in
Brazil, one of its key markets, declined by 8.2 percent while
there was a fall of 5 percent in North America.
– AB-InBev plans to enter Vietnam
Not wanting to be left out in the rush to the
next Clondyke, AB-InBev’s CEO Carlos Brito told shareholders on
24 April 2013 at AB-InBev’s Annual Shareholders’ Meeting (ASM)
that his company plans to join rivals in Vietnam at the end of
2014 with the construction of a brewery. Vietnam, which has a
population of 90 million people, is seen as one of the most
attractive markets in the region for brewers. Beer sales are
expected to grow by about 10 percent per year on average for
2010 to 2020, it was reported. Mr Brito said that AB-InBev
already has the land licence.
Rivals Carlsberg, Heineken and SABMiller all have
operations in Vietnam, either directly or through joint
According to media, Mr Brito at the ASM also
expressed his delight that AB-InBev was nearing the end of its
planned USD 20 billion full takeover of Mexico's Grupo Modelo
after settling its dispute with the U.S. Justice Department on
19 April 2013.
Israel - Beer tax hike turns law
In order to stuff the big holes in the
country’s budget, the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, has
doubled the sales tax on beer. On 23 April 2013 the Knesset’s
financial committee decided to increase the sales tax on beer to
NIS 4.20 (EUR 0.90) from NIS 2.18 (EUR 0.46) per litre, despite
sharp criticism from industrial brewers and noisy protests from
the many smaller breweries, which in Israel are called "beer
boutiques". The Finance Ministry expects the sales tax increase
to sweep about an extra EUR 60 million into their coffers.
The radical tax increase was already
introduced about a year ago through a temporary regulation. This
has now been replaced by a law. The beer lobby has been
ineffective in preventing this damaging tax hike, unlike the
students, who through their protests managed to convince
politicians not to hike the already exorbitantly high tuition
Sadly, though, for their favourite drink,
students will have to dig deeper into their empty pockets.
Instead of the previous NIS 12-13 (EUR 2.80) per bottle of beer,
they will have to continue forking out NIS 15-16 (EUR 3.40).
The country’s major brewers, the Central
Bottling Company (whose licensed brands include Coca-Cola and
Carlsberg) and Tempo (in which Heineken holds a stake) with a
combined market share of around 98 percent, may be able to
absorb some of the tax increase. But it’s the two dozen or so
microbreweries which will suffer the most. With the prices of
draught beer such as Goldstar (manufactured by Tempo) set to
rise to NIS 30 (EUR 6.40/USD 8) and a craft beer to NIS 34 (EUR
7.20/USD 9) per half-litre, the new tax may also drive consumers
to purchase more of the larger brewers’ products.
By waving through this tax hike, Israeli
politicians give lie to their argument that the ensuing price
increase for beer will help fight alcoholism. In pubs across the
country a small glass of beer with 4% to 5% ABV costs as much as
a glass of Arak, a local spirit, with 40% to 50% ABV. "Boozers
will now switch to hard spirits permanently”, brewers fear.
Besides, Israel is not really a country of beer
guzzlers. Beer production stood at merely 1 million hl in 2011
according to the Barth Report, which translates into a per
capita consumption of 13 litres.
Israel’s brewers employ about 2,000 people,
many of whom will face redundancy especially those employed by
the smaller operators. The jobless rate stood at 6.7 percent of
the labour force at the end of February this year. Many brewers
wonder why the sales tax was doubled on beer but not on wine?
The taxman’s response: because there is no sales tax levied on
wine at all.
Australia - Asahi buys beer brand Cricketers Arms
Since Lion, Foster’s and even Coca-Cola
Amatil are so heavily into craft beers, Asahi decided it did not
want to be the odd one out. But rather than develop its own
craft beer brand, at the end of April 2013 it decided to buy a
brand that was already launched in 2009: Cricketers Arms.
Now Cricketers Arms is not a typical craft
beer. Because many Australian commentators have called it a
“session beer” – the usual put-down used by craft brewers for
non-extreme beers – its creators have instead opted for the
moniker “mainstream craft”. Whatever that is.
However, Cricketers Arms has a good story to
it. The man behind the brand is the
Melbourne entrepreneur and former publican Paul Scott, who has
had Cricketers Arms contract-brewed at the Mildura Brewery (an
outback town 500 km to the north of Melbourne) since 2009. He
seems to have been quite good at brand building because today
you can find the beer in most of the major liquor store chains.
Germany – Gaffel brewery’s owners fight like Cain and Abel in
In the carnival-mad city of Cologne revellers
usually fall into a deep depression with the onset of Lent.
Thanks to the on-going and highly publicised spat between the
brothers Heinrich and Johannes Becker for control of the Gaffel
brewery it’s now carnival all year round.
When the brothers, who are in their sixties,
inherited the brewery from their father in 1972, everything
seemed to be fine. Both got an equal stake in the brewery with
clearly demarcated responsibilities and duties.
No one can remember when things turned sour
at Gaffel or even why the brothers fell out with each other. In
any case, their private quarrels turned public after Johannes
was expelled from the board of management in 2006 and dragged
Heinrich to court over this. Since then they have seen each
other mostly in court.
To date, over a dozen lawsuits have been
filed by one or the other. While local media get enormous
mileage out of their quarrel, comparing it to that between Cain
and Abel, judges seem to have grown rather tired of having to
deal with the Beckers. One judge actually told them to pull
themselves together and sort this out pronto.
USA – Shiner beer launched in New York City
They don’t seem to rush things down in Texas.
Although the Gambrinus Company ranks fourth among U.S. craft
brewers in terms of volume, it has up till now avoided selling
its Shiner beers in New York City. Finally, in mid-April its
Texan beer brand Shiner was hit by the city’s limelight – not
Shiner is a bit of an anomaly among the U.S.
craft beers as the Spoetzl brewery celebrated its 100th
birthday a few years ago. But as in Texas things move at a
different pace to the rest of the country, it could be argued
that Shiner has always been “craft” - before “craft beer” was
even invented. Therefore, it’s more than just a nice a nice
touch that on its website the brewery lists all its brewmasters
to date. It has only had six in its 104 year long history, with
Jimmy Maurice, the current one, appointed in 2003. Actually,
Jimmy is a local boy from Shiner. This proves to show that at
the Spoetzl brewery they take their traditions seriously.
Still, more likely, the Gambrinus people
prefer to wait until the time is right before they take their
beer places. Especially if the destination is snotty New York
– SABMiller’s Mackay treated for brain tumour
Given that he stood at the helm of stock
market-listed SABMiller, the brewer had to make a personal
misfortune public knowledge for fear it might affect its share
price negatively: its Chief Executive Graham Mackay has had
surgery for a brain tumour. Therefore, he will be replaced by
the group's Chief Operating Officer Alan Clark with immediate
Mr Mackay, who is aged 63, underwent surgery
on 22 April 210, and his role will be kept “under review pending
the outcome of his treatment,” SABMiller said in a statement on
23 April 2013. Mr Mackay had been due to take the position of
Chairman in July, at the company’s annual general meeting.
SABMiller announced the leadership change in April last year.
Because of Mr Mackay’s illness the board has
accelerated the planned promotion of Chief Operating Officer
Alan Clark to CEO.
Mr Mackay has led the brewer since it listed
in London in 1999, overseeing a string of major acquisitions,
the AUD 10.5 billion (USD 10.8 billion) takeover of Foster’s
Group in 2011 being the latest.
In the light of his illness, several articles
have focused on pointing out his past achievements, sadly making
them sound like an antedated farewell.
– SABMiller benefits from growing demand for beer in Africa
Global brewer SABMiller reported on 17 April
2013 that it saw a 7 percent rise in its full year organic
revenue (until end March 2013), boosted by strong demand in
Africa and a surprisingly resilient demand in Europe.
In Africa full-year lager volumes have grown
6 percent on an organic basis. In the final quarter (January
through March) sales were up 9 percent. However, lager volumes
in Latin America dropped 1 percent in the final quarter, hit by
softer economic conditions and a price increase in some markets.
Netherlands – Heineken has a very poor start of the year
Denmark – Carlsberg’s man in Asia leaves
That’s what you get for being dependent upon
Europe. Heineken, the world’s number three brewer, tempered its
expectations for annual growth after reporting an unexpected
decline in first-quarter sales on 24 April 2013.
The brewer said that sales volumes and
revenues would grow this year, but probably at rates lower than
in 2012. Previously Heineken had forecasted that growth in 2013
would be in line with last year’s.
Obviously, Heineken fears that conditions in
austerity-hit markets in Europe as well as a slowdown in
Nigerian sales will continue to hamper this year’s sales.
In addition to sliding sales in western
Europe, the brewer also reported lower volumes in the central
and eastern part of the continent, Asia Pacific and the
The first quarter is always a bad quarter for
Heineken because of it falling squarely into Europe’s winter.
Last year, the first three months represented 21 percent of
consolidated beer volume and considerably less in terms of
profit contributions, it was reported. However, it must have
been a real blow to Heineken that sales in African and the
Americas could not offset Europe’s disappointing performance.
Oops – what can it possible mean that
Carlsberg’s head of the brewer’s Asia division decided to leave
all of a sudden? The world's number four brewer announced on 24
April 2013 that Roy Bagattini, 49, is leaving to take a job at
fashion group Levi Strauss & Company as Executive Vice President
and President of Commercial Operations, Asia Pacific, in June
Mr Bagattini joined Carlsberg in 2009, having
been poached from SABMiller, where he had worked for eighteen
years in a variety of CEO and general management roles in
Russia, China, India, Italy and the United States.
So it’s jeans now for Mr
Bagattini and more of a worry for Carlsberg’s CEO Jorgen Buhl
Rasmussen. The company seems to have been unaware of Mr
Bagattini’s intended career move. That’s why Carlsberg’s CEO
will take on Mr Bagattini’s responsibilities until a successor
to Mr Bagattini has been found. Mr Rasmussen said that the new
Asia chief would need commercial as well as M&A qualifications.
Mr Rasmussen insisted that Carlsberg would
not lose focus on its expansion in the region.
2013 april ·
march · february
2009 december ·