The volte-face follows H1 2012 trading that makes bleak reading for CUB, since the XXXX Gold brand owned by its Australian rival Lion (a subsidiary of Japan’s Kirin Holdings) overtook Victoria Bitter (VB) as the nation’s top-selling beer, ending its 20+ year hegemony.
Thus the beer will return to its full strength of 4.9% and the ‘Victoria Bitter’ name will be reinstated on labels and cans, while the tagline ‘For a hard-earned thirst’ will also be restored.
CUB will roll out the new/old Victoria Bitter to the on and off-trade nationally throughout November, and wholesale prices for the drink will not change.
‘VB? That’ll be a Victoria Bitter…’
For almost 100 years Victoria Bitter was brewed at a strength of 4.9% before a 2007 recipe change saw alcohol levels taken down to 4.8%, and a further change in 2009 took it to 4.6%.
In an unprecedented letter to consumers (pictured) entitled ‘We’ve heard you, and we’re fixing it’, Mervis confessed that CUB altered the recipe and brewing process for VB several years ago and “got it wrong”.
“But we’ve listened to you – our loyal customers – and now we are determined to make it right,” he added.
Brand loses ground on XXXX Gold
However, the facts show that VB drinkers have not all been totally loyal, as Nielsen data showed that XXXX Gold beer grew volume and value to become Australia’s top-selling beer in H1 2012, as evidenced by Lion’s trading update for the period ending March 31.
“I’m pleased to announce that we are restoring Victoria Bitter back to the recipe that made it the best cold beer. It will soon be back to its original full flavor, full strength of 4.9%,” Mervis said.
“We will also be bringing back the unmistakable and iconic packaging, including reinstating then name ‘Victoria Bitter’,” he said, before adding that CUB was proud of the beer’s name and heritage.
CUB chief marketing officer, Andy Gibson, said: “The Vic Bitter drinkers have spoken and told us we should not have tinkered with their beer.”