The pruning of Diageo’s beer brands has begun with brewer Guinness GB scrapping failed lager Enigma and transferring the marketing and production of Harp Irish Lager to regional brewer Wolverhampton & Dudley.
The production of non-alcoholic lager Kaliber and Guinness Bitter will also move overseas, leaving the Guinness stout range as the only Guinness product to be brewed in Britain.
Guinness GB managing director Gary Matthews says: “Guinness GB’s stout portfolio accounts for 85 per cent of our business and it is an area we will be focusing our efforts on in the future.”
Questions have already been raised about the future of Guinness Bitter. It has been suggested that it will be allowed to “wither and die”.
However, Guinness maintains that focusing more resources on stout does not mean that other brands in its portfolio will lose out on marketing support.
“Guinness Bitter and Kaliber will remain part of the portfolio. They will continue to be marketed and sold,” a spokesman says.
Wolverhampton & Dudley, which already brews Harp, will increase its production and take over sales and marketing of the brand in the UK from mid-1999 for a period of ten years. Guinness retains ownership of the brand and responsibility for it in other markets.
It is unclear how the change will affect existing Harp marketing. It was relaunched last year and a campaign through advertising agency Publicis is now running on TV.
Wolverhampton & Dudley is currently preoccupied with a hostile takeover bid for Marston Thompson & Evershed.
The formation of Diageo out of Guinness and Grand Metropolitan last year was designed to add value to shareholders. The new company has been pursuing a policy of focusing resources on core products in core markets.
Rationalisation of its substantial brand portfolio is widely believed to be inevitable, particularly in brewing and spirits.