By James Atkinson

Brands including Pure Blonde, Carlton Mid and Cascade are next in line for the SABMiller treatment, Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) CEO Ari Mervis has told TheShout exclusively.

Mervis, who also commented on CCA's return to beer, said CUB is progressing with the overhaul of its other core brands, following the recent relaunches of Victoria Bitter and Crown Lager.

He said these core brands were in various states of health when they were inherited by SABMiller.

"What we said initially is we want to focus on those initiatives and brands that are the most important in our portfolio, those that generate the most volume and the most value," he said.

"Of the others, Pure Blonde we're still working on, Carlton Mid I think we're getting to a really good position and we're going to be leveraging that through the summer with the one-day cricket series, and then Carlton Draught is in a good place, its positioning is healthy and strong."

Mervis echoed previous comments by former CUB marketing boss Andy Gibson, that CUB needed to get its brands to occupy more distinct consumer areas rather than overlapping each other.

"What we have done is we've identified which brands need to participate in which consumer segments and occasions and opportunities," he said.

"It's a journey, we haven't hit the end point yet."

Excess SKUs get the axe

Thereafter, Mervis said CUB will be leveraging the medium term growth opportunities for its premium and international brands, and then refining its approach to the long term growth segments of craft beer and cider.

There will be no further deletions of high profile brands, he said, after Victoria Pale Lager was deemed surplus to requirements last year. [continued below]

Carlton & United Breweries CEO Ari Mervis

CUB has however rationalised many excess SKUs since SABMiller took the reigns.

"There's been a proliferation of not necessarily only brand variants, but also different pack sizes that really haven't had a real role in the portfolio," Mervis said.

"In NSW you might have had a 24-pack of cans, a 24-pack of bottles and a 30-pack of cans that have competed against each other – you just didn't need all three of them."

"We've rationalised many of those."

Cascade has 'true craft credentials' 

Mervis rejected the suggestion that CUB is lagging behind Lion in the craft beer segment, commenting that the reinforcement of Matilda Bay beers as a portfolio rather than individual brands will continue in the summer.

"We also think that Cascade, Australia's oldest commercial brewery dating back to 1824, has the same virtues as craft beers," he said.

"I feel we can bring that to life and we certainly intend to over the course of the next six months amplify that as being a really great offering of credible, true and authentic craft."

SABMiller's global portfolio advantage

Commenting on Lion's recent acquisition of Little Creatures, Mervis said CUB today has little need to look for domestic takeover opportunities.

"The need to acquire more Australian craft breweries I'm not sure is necessarily top of the agenda," he said.

"Bear in mind that we have the advantage of having a global portfolio and access to craft beers from around the world, if appropriate."

"But again, we'd rather be more specific and targeted, focusing on specific consumer needs and occasions as opposed to a shotgun-type approach," Mervis said.

He said craft has an important role to play in bringing excitement to the wider beer category. 

"But the reality is that craft is less than three per cent of total beer consumed in Australia, so while it makes a lot of noise, it tends to be very small volume," he said.

See Wednesday's edition of TheShout for the second half of our interview with Ari Mervis.

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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