In the opinion of Managing Director James Brindley, “2018 was a very full year for Lion,” featuring wins at the Australian Liquor Industry Awards (ALIA), along with new launches and campaigns.
But 2019 is here and there are new beers to launch and new business to be uncovered. A major trend that Lion has followed and responded to is the effect of health considerations on drinking habits, resulting in the launch of alcohol-free and gluten-free beers.
“Mid-strength is an important category for Lion. With the launch of Heineken Zero last year, and Remedy Kombucha moving into our portfolio, we are very excited to pursue more alcohol-free options this year. We are also about to launch a new Hahn beer, which has been brewed with rice, water, yeast and hops. Hahn Ultra Crisp is a legitimate gluten-free beer, and is certified by Coeliac Australia,” said Brindley.
In 2018, Furphy was rolled out nationally following growth of over 100 per cent and “overwhelming demand from publicans, retailers and drinkers”. In addition, Lion acquired Fourpure (UK) and the contract brewing, sales and distribution rights for Brooklyn Brewery in Australia.
“Lion has a history of investing in excellent businesses and letting the founders keep doing what they do best, while providing financial and system support to get their products to more people.”
As well as acquiring breweries, Lion has also started Malt Shovel, launched in 2017. Byron Bay, Eumundi and Bevy Brewing Co all feature in this collection that aims to provide customers with a broader range of beers. A brewery and brand in Townsville is on the way too.
“Malt Shovel is a dedicated team looking to nurture a collection of new brands and breweries, and to make business easy for the licensed trade around Australia. The Malt Shovel model cuts out the paperwork with quick online sign-up on the Ordermentum platform, and next day delivery. We value the importance of having patience with new brands and allowing them to find their feet in the market, and for that reason Malt Shovel is the perfect incubator.”
So, as we move into 2019, what craft beer trends can we expect?
“We are seeing a return to simplicity in craft. Consumers are increasingly looking for traditional lagers and pale ales made simply and made well. Brewers are also focusing on sessionable beers that are perfect for the Australian climate.
“There is strong interest in local breweries and drinkers are actively seeking out the unique experience they can enjoy by visiting a local brewery, tasting fresh beers, eating great food, and hearing the story behind the brewery. Another trend is experimentation with styles and ingredients, using things like hemp, fruits, herbs and spices.”
Beyond beer sales and launches, Brindley sees 2019 as a year when the industry can look to reducing its environmental impact. Lion recently partnered with REDcycle, “a soft plastic initiative which makes it easy for people to recycle soft plastic items, such as plastic bags, straws, and even the plastic wrap from six-packs. These items have traditionally ended up in landfill, but now they can be placed in REDcycle bins at Coles and Woolworths supermarkets around Australia. The plastic collected is transformed into a range of products, such as park benches, bollards, signage and outdoor furniture.
“In 2019, the time is right for the liquor and hospitality industry to think about what more we can do to tread lightly and reduce our environmental footprint.”
This article was written for the 2019 National Liquor News Annual Industry Leaders Forum published in February.