By James Atkinson

The hotly-debated move by Carlton & United Breweries to increase the ABV of Victoria Bitter seems to have paid off, with the brewer reporting a two per cent increase in sales of the brand for the quarter ended December 31, 2012.

The two per cent uplift reported by parent company SABMiller last night was VB's first quarter of growth in over 10 years.

SABMiller said the brand had benefited from the brand restoration programme and improved retail engagement.

VB general manager Richard Oppy said the brand's relaunch as a 4.9 per cent brew was an example of CUB's renewed focus on its core brands. He said the company had been heartened by the reaction from drinkers and resulting sales uplift.

Oppy said CUB had improved brewing processes across the board: by reducing the exposure to oxygen in the process, it had been able to take the preservatives out of its brews, including Vic Bitter.

"There's no doubt we're tasting a cleaner, more refreshing product because of this."

SABMiller said there was an improving trend in lager volumes in its Australian business, with sales for the quarter four per cent below the prior year on a pro forma basis, excluding the impact of the termination of some licensed brands, compared with an eight per cent decline in the previous six months.

Total lager volumes, including discontinued brands, were 15 per cent down.

"The integration programme in Australia remains ahead of schedule in respect of both synergy delivery and capability build," the company said.

The Shout Team

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

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