SABMiller challenges positioning of premium lager brands

LONDON - SABMiller has seen UK sales rise by 42% over the six months ending September 30, bucking the trend in the market, and leading its managing director to criticise the aggressive expansion techniques of bigger premium brands.

The company said the rise in sales was led by Italian brand Peroni Nastro Azzurro and Pilsner Urquell, as well as Polish brands Tyskie and Lech, which have seen sales rise with the number of Poles moving to the UK.

The increase in sales come as rival brewer InBev looks at how to shore up sales of its premium lager, Stella Artois, which is struggling to live up to its ‘reassuringly expensive" tagline.

Alan Clark, managing director of SABMiller Europe, said: ‘Some of the country's most enduring premium beers are seeing declines following a number of years of aggressive expansion. As these big brands lose their allure, consumers are experimenting with a new generation of more distinctive beers, a development which SABMiller is well-placed to capitalise on.'

The company was also critical of the way ‘premium' lager was defined in the UK, based on the ABV rather than the price. It said that it was this definition that was used by AC Nielsen in calculating that the sector had experienced a 3.5% decline in sales for the year to date.

When looking at beers priced at a premium of 25% or more to an average price, sales were up by 37%.

Gary Whitlie, managing director of Miller Brands, the UK subsidiary of SABMiller, said: ‘Higher alcohol strength is no longer the defining characteristic of UK premium lager brands. As this new reality takes hold, retailers can benefit by offering genuine premium brands that consumers recognise as delivering a convincing point of difference.'



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