By James Atkinson

The Brewers Association is working with its member companies on a plan to bust myths and negative perceptions associated with the beer category and return mainstream beer to growth.

The initiatives aimed at creating a “vibrant beer culture” in Australia were revealed by Lion Beer, Spirits & Wine national sales director Mark Powell last week in a keynote presentation at the Liquor Legends National Conference.

Powell told Liquor Legends retailers that while beer in Australia faced a number of challenges, brewers had taken inspiration from the successful overhaul of beer’s image in Spain, where beer consumption had recovered after declining significantly in the early 1990s.

“We just met with Anheuser-Busch InBev. They‘re rolling out the same sort of program in about eight countries around the world,” he said.

As in other countries, Powell said beer had suffered from being poorly understood by the Australian public. Recent research undertaken by the Brewers Association indicated that beer was incorrectly perceived as “fattening”, “a lot less healthy than wine” and laden with chemicals.

“It’s actually made of four natural ingredients, it couldn’t be more natural,” Powell said.

“There’s a lot of these perceptions among beer drinkers that have pushed them away from the category and are probably stopping other people from entering the category as well,” he said. [continues below]

Mark Powell addresses Liquor Legends retailers

Two out of five people surveyed commented that they wanted beer to modernise its image, Powell added. 

The respondents said drinking beer at the dinner table was not as acceptable as it was in the past and they wished the beverage was more acceptable to women for shared consumption occasions.

And when beer drinkers were asked whether they would like to learn more about different beer styles, Powell said more than 60 per cent said ‘yes’.

“When they got asked unprompted whether they could name any beer styles, a third couldn’t name one beer style,” Powell said.

“The more people know, the more they spend. That’s been absolutely proven when we look at the people that have got a lot more knowledge around all the categories, but especially beer.”

He said the research had also shown that there were negative words and associations with beer that needed to be tackled. Beer was variously considered ‘blokey’, ‘boganish’, ‘dad’s drink’, ‘boring’ and ‘bitter’.

Reasons to be positive

However, Powell said 95 per cent of survey respondents thought beer was ‘easy drinking, really refreshing, simple and honest’.

“At least there’s a foundation there to work from,” he said.

And in an Australia Day poll that asked punters what three things made it great to be an Aussie, beer was number two behind freedom. “That again gives us something to build on,” said Powell.

Changing culture and behaviours

Powell said the model the brewers are working on will seek to:

  • Champion positive rituals, behaviours and language associated with beer;
  • Ensure beer keeps good company – beer needs to be associated with “more contemporary company” than the legendary drinking efforts of David Boon and Bob Hawke;
  • Celebrate land to hand – “the wine guys have done a fantastic job in this space”;
  • Celebrate places of worship – “You can talk about every pub in Australia being a place of worship, how do you dial that back up?”;
  • Shape and share positive stories – such as Lion’s Beer Pilgrim (pictured right), who already has more than 14,000 Facebook fans, a reasonable percentage of which are female. “We probably need ten of this guy,” Powell said;
  • Improve the public’s beer IQ – introduce campaigns to make people more knowledgeable about beer; and
  • Align beer more closely with food and travel.

A long-term approach

Brewers Association CEO Denita Wawn told TheShout that the initiatives will not be a short-term fix for the category, with the Spanish model only having achieved success over a period of 12 to 14 years.

“At the moment we are exploring some options about what the association can do around a category campaign,” she said.

“The exciting thing is building upon what is already being undertaken by our member organisations and what the craft guys have been doing really well – getting people to understand in far greater detail what they are drinking, what are the different styles of beer and what are their taste profiles.”

“We believe it’s up the association not just to undertake political work, but also promote the category,” said Wawn.

She said a number of proposals for a category campaign will be put to the association’s board this month ahead of likely activation around the middle of the year.

The Shout Team

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

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1 Comment

  1. The problem is the consumer wants variety and thats not what they are getting. Every sporting event or music festival that you go to and most pubs, club or restaurants have the main 3 or 4 beers that either Lion or CUB licensed. People are over boring tasteless beer so they are finding something else to drink.
    It so disappointing to turn up to an industry event as a female to find for the next 3hrs your choice in beers are XXXX, XXXX Gold or Carlton, Carlton Mid strength and the food your being served has been prepared by a 2 hat chef.
    Educating operators and there staff so that they can on sell confidently, More menu’s matching beer with it’s food, tasting notes etc…
    At least if it’s a Coco Cola sponsored event we will get Blue Moon.
    Here’s to the evaluation of Craft in Australia

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