In November, we reported that domestic beer sales have been seeing a five-year dip in the face of imports, with drinkers of Australian brews between the ages of 18 and 25 dropping by 8% since 2009 amid an overall plunge of 4%.
Beer in the doldrums
At the same time, the rise in popularity of wine, cider and spirits has hit the popularity of beer, which hit a 66-year low last year.
Yesterday, London-based SABMiller reported a 4% decline its sales from its Australian division, CUB, in the December quarter that even higher prices for its Carlton Draught and Victoria Bitter were not able to offset.
However, Coopers’ managing director, Tim Cooper, said his company’s total beer sales in 2013 reached 72m litres, an increase of 4.7% on the 68.8m litres sold the previous year.
“December 2013 was our highest selling month on record, with 8.55m litres of beer sold. This was 13% more than the previous record month in December 2012,” he said.
“During December, we also enjoyed record sales of Coopers Original Pale Ale [almost 400,000 cases] and Coopers Sparking Ale [100,000 cases].
“A significant portion of our growth for 2013 can be attributed to our international beer portfolio, as well as good growth from the mid-strength Coopers Mild Ale. Strong sales in Pale Ale and Sparkling Ale also drove the volume increase.”
Coopers brews Carlsberg and Sapporo under contract and also distributes Mythos and Kronenbourg 1664 through its distribution company, Coopers Premium Beverages. The increasing trend among Australian beer drinkers towards so-called “premiumisation” has played into Coopers’ hands, with this international portfolio.
Coopers has seen average growth of more than 9.8% per year for the past 20 years and now represents more than 4.5% of the total Australian beer market. The country’s two biggest players, Lion and CUB, together control 90 per cent of the market.
For the six months to December 31, 2013, Coopers’ sales grew by 6.3% over the previous corresponding period. International brands increased in volume by 157%, and Mild Ale by 25%.
The biggest increase in sales came from Victoria, up 15.4%, Queensland, up 12.1%, and then Western Australia, up 9.4%, while beer exports increased 23.1%.
South Australia remains Coopers’ largest market, representing 26.9% of sales, just ahead of NSW at 26.0%. Exports represent 2.4% of sales.