Asahi, the Japanese brewer, is handing over responsibility for UK marketing and distribution for its Asahi Super Dry beer to Kent-based brewer Shepherd Neame, which has been brewing the beer under licence since 2005.
The switch follows a restructuring of Asahi’s European operation last month (MW November 2). The UK operation has effectively closed down, although the London office, headed by general manager Moto Suzuki, will now concentrate on building distribution in Europe.
It is unclear how the marketing and distribution deal with Shepherd Neame will affect the review of the brand’s advertising. Incumbent Nexus/h, which has held the Asahi account for five years, is pitching for the business against RPM3, which already handles Bishop’s Finger and Spitfire Ale for Shepherd Neame.
In Japan, Asahi is locked in a struggle with Kirin Brewery for market leadership. Although Asahi Super Dry is still Japan’s best-selling beer, Kirin overtook its rival for the first time in five years at the start of 2006. Asahi plans to win back the top spot with a raft of product launches.
Asahi Super Dry was imported from Japan until 2000, with UK marketing, sales and distribution handled by Bass. In 2000 the Japanese company handed the licence to brew the beer to Staropramen Breweries in the Czech Republic.
Staropramen still brews and sells Super Dry in 20 European countries excluding the UK.