Identity risk for Coopers

At its annual general meeting late last year, Adelaide-based Coopers claimed to have 3.4 per cent of the Australian beer market – after growing its total volumes by one per cent and interstate sales by 6.3 per cent in the previous year.

At the meeting, Coopers also announced plans to release a new product in the ‘dry beer low carb segment’ in January 2010. It said that this was partly to offset the loss of distribution rights for Budweiser to Lion Nathan, which had previously attempted, unsuccessfully, to buy Coopers.

Coopers had reportedly invested six million dollars in anticipation of producing Budweiser at its Regency Park brewery. But the acquisition of Anheuser Busch, owner of Budweiser, by InBev (now A-B InBev) in November 2008 led to the change of Australasian distribution from December 2009.

While the rapid growth of Australia’s highly-fragment premium beer market creates opportunities for Coopers – something it’s exploited profitably to date – it also presents a marketing challenge.

With a reputation so solidly rooted in the wholesome, wholemeal goodness of its bottle-fermented ales, could the development of relatively bland beers (like its 62 Pilsner, released last year, and entry into the inherently insipid low-carb market this week)  targeted at different drinkers, alienate the established customer base?

Extending old brands is inherently risky, especially when the brand extensions seem to offer values totally at odds with the old.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010

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