Belgian bargain set to shake beer market

88 Balls lager – it’s new, wet, alcoholic, fresh, imported from Belgium and cheap as chips at $33 to $35 a slab. Good on Barons brewing for bring it in. But I’m guessing there’ll be more publicity than money in the venture. How much can be left over after fees for the Belgian brewer, packaging, shipping 20-thousand kilometres, distribution, retailer margins, excise and GST? A slip in the exchange rate might bring it all undone.

While it lasts, though, it’ll help keep a lid on prices, having lobbed straight into mainstream retailing. On the Anzac Day long weekend, for example, Coles-owned 1st Choice outlets advertised two slabs for $66, alongside Australia’s VB, Melbourne Bitter and Maxx Blonde at the same price. In the same ad, they offered the Australian-brewed, Belgian brand, Stella Artois, at $41.90.

Faced with real Belgian beer priced $9 below faux Belgian, some Stella drinkers might make the change – though I suspect buyers will, in the main, be brand-agnostic bargain hunters.

Coles and Woolworths, too, buy opportunistically. In this case they may simply be meeting market prices without dragging their own direct imports into the price fray. Next week or next year they might move on. Barons had better keep their eye on the ball.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010

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