Monday, February 18, 2008

Beer brands and the start of a personal consumer revolution

I am the first to accept that I am in some ways a creature of custom and habit. But dear I do get annoyed with some changes!

My pet peeve at the moment is the way in which supermarkets and brand owners limit what I can buy.

When I first started drinking beer I drank Grafton, a local New England beer. Then Grafton was taken over by Tooheys. They stopped making the beer, so I had to switch.

At that stage the NSW beer market was essentially controlled by two companies, Tooths with around 56% of the market, Tooheys with 46%. Each produced a range of brands, with market share depending upon control over pubs as the main distribution arm.

After a while, I settled on one beer from each, Tooheys Flag Ale plus KB. Takeover activity saw Tooheys acquired by the somewhat manic Alan Bond who then, as I remember it, acquired Tooths.

Some of Mr Bond's business decisions were somewhat questionable.

After having sold Mr Bond his Channel 9 TV network for a massive price and then bought it back a little later for a lot less, Australian media mogul Kerry Packer commented that there was only one Mr Bond in a man's lifetime.

Mr Bond's knowledge of the beer marketplace and of underyling brand loyalties was not, I fear, one of his strong features. In his dedicated pursuit of takeover profits, he managed to open the previously closed NSW beer marketplace up in a way that would have warmed the heart of any dedicated competition agency. One ultimate side-effect was the disappearance of my personal tipples.

After a longish period I finally settled on Resches' Pilsener, one of the traditional Tooths' brands, as a replacement. Now I face a new threat.

Market power has shifted from the beermakers to the supermarket chains. They determine what will be stocked.

A little while back, I noticed that my beer had gone from the shelves. Ever suspicious, I asked why, to be told that it no longer had the volume of sales to warrant inclusion. I protested, to find that even such a dedicated drinker as myself could not consume the minimum volume required to force inclusion.

Now this is not the first time this sort of thing has happened. However, it seems to be happening more often. Too many times recently I have gone to buy something only to find that it is no longer there. So I have begun planning my fight-back campaign.


Anonymous said...


Starting your campaign by defending silver bullets?? Top marks for symbolism, but don't look to my beer fridge to support your brand.

More seriously, my family possesses what we now call the "Woolworths touch of death". If we find a product that we like, Woolies will take it off the shelves pronto. Says something about our tastes compared to the norm, I suppose.

The only response possible is to take your custom to a place that will continue to stock what you want and pay for the privilege in price, time and lack of convenience. Our corner store keeps quite an array of things we like now, and gets more of our business than those goods alone or its prices or range can justify.

To save your beer, go to the bottle shop at the pub for ALL your alcohol. Get others to do the same, especially if they can't get their favourite.

Cheers (in every sense)

Bob Quiggin

Jim Belshaw said...

Hi Bob. good to hear from you even though I have still to add to my material on efficiency dividends!

Good stuff here that I can use. And, we too, shop at Woolworths!