Stella Artois takes premiumisation strategy to the on-trade

Bar staff are being encouraged to refer to Stella Artois by its full name and not “Stella” as part of a marketing drive to promote the quality and craft of the beer in pubs and clubs across the UK.

AB InBev is rolling out a nationwide push to promote the quality and craft of the Stella Artois brand.

Brand owner AB InBev is launching a concerted push to transfer the premiumisation strategy it has employed in above-the-line campaigns for Stella Artois in recent years to the on-trade.

The strategy revolves around the pouring ritual of the beer that sees bar staff use specially branded skimmers, glassware and and drip trays to emphasis the taste of the beer over its rivals. Additionally, around 6,000 trained staff promoting the food pairing qualities of the beer.

Those outlets taking part in the “Connoisseurs Programme” are rewarded for promoting the brand’s premium positioning with cash prizes.

Phil Pick, marketing manager for Stella Artois in the UK, says the on-trade push is part of a series of initiatives in 2013 which aim to “showcase the importance of the Stella Artois Chalice and pouring ritual”. Using the branded glass in conjunction with the experiential activity can help outlets lift their sales by up to 12.3 per cent, he adds.

Pick says: “We are raising the bar on helping operators to deliver [the brand’s aspirational quality] through the Stella Artois Connoisseurs Programme, by training and incentivising outlets for their delivery of the Stella Artois pouring ritual. We believe that our iconic Chalice plays a vital role in the perception of our beer for consumers, with Stella Artois putting around one million Chalices into on-trade outlets.”

The move aims to help wrestle back share from more premium alternatives such as Peroni and craft beers, which have prospered despite the continued decline of the country’s pub industry. UK beer sales in pubs and clubs fell 5.8 per cent year-on- year in the second quarter, according to the British Beer & Pub Association.

To accelerate the strategy, AB InBev is turning to technology to foster more loyalty among pub goers. Earlier this month, it launched an app that allows fans to gift friends a pint of Stella Artois. Both Guinness and London Pride brewer Fuller’s are pursuing similar strategies using NFC and real-time marketing initiatives respectively.

Stella Artois says it plans to leverage “further value” from its online community in upcoming projects – particularly in relation to the theme of digital gifting and sharing – to arrest ongoing declines in the country’s pub industry. The decline has sent on-trade sales of the brand plummeting over the last three months according to CGA Strategy. Value sales fell 11.8 per cent for the 12 weeks to 10 August, while volumes dropped 14.6 per cent dropped over the same period.