Lager brands discover the power of craft

With Peroni and Carlsberg moving to offer consumers a more premium experience, beer brands are steadily exploring craft options when it comes to lager. Yet they must not forget their core offering.

Last week, SABMiller revealed that £1 in every £4 spent on beer in London now goes on so-called ‘super-premium’ beer, which costs £4.15 a pint or higher. According to the alcohol giant, that growth has been led by Peroni, which saw double-digit volume growth during the year ending 31 March.

SABMiller CEO Alan Clark says Peroni’s success is down to its premium positioning, and that it is tapping into a growing demand for lager brands with a story behind them. He explains: “Premium is growing in importance and not just for our brands. People are looking for different styles. We are undergoing a transformation in the way people consume alcohol and beer.”

Meanwhile, Carlsberg revealed that it is considering relaunching its ‘original’ lager. Using yeast cells from a 133-year-old beer bottle, the Danish beer brand is ‘rebrewing’ its original beer in a bid to reclaim its ‘craft beer’ heritage.

“Now the craft world has redefined what is craft and what is not craft. We need to tell the world and prove going forward that ‘Probably the best beer in the world’ isn’t just a fancy slogan. Carlsberg isn’t your local brewery around the corner, but a quality beer [available] on every corner,” Rasmus Bendtsen, Carlberg’s global marketing manager says.

According to CGA Strategy figures, the total value of the craft beer market currently stands at £665m and has grown 55.2% year on year from April 2014. Its total value share of the beer market currently stands at 5.5%.

Toby Magill, head of beer, wine and spirits at IRI, says the the rise of premium and world lagers at the expense of more mainstream offerings is a reflection of a wider trend. “In the [beer] category, shoppers are looking for authenticity, difference and a bit of cachet, which can be seen in the rise of craft ale and lager,” he says.

The craft market is still predicted to grow, offering brands an opportunity to reach new audiences.

“Craft as a whole has reignited interest in the wider beer category. For brands, it is definitely the right route to go down, as consumer dynamics are always about [offering] choice.”

Phil Tate, European CEO at CGA strategy

The big challenge for any beer brand hoping to get a slice of the market is to remain authentic and battle dominant negative perceptions around scale.

“If you get too big, you’re not a craft brand and you lose affinity of what pulls people into craft in the first place. What is more, the craft market consists of some very knowledgeable and opinionated consumers. Within that, it’s challenging to be authentic,” Phil Tate, European CEO at CGA strategy says.

It’s not all bad news. Tate believes craft is now breaking through from early adopters to the “middle mainstream” market, where consumers are not as educated about the category and simply want to drink different lagers. Beer companies should not forget about their hallmark brands, too.

He concludes: “There is lots of buzz around craft in the market, but it still represents just over 5% of total beer volume sales. Brands should focus on their tried and trusted brands as well.”

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