Interview: Beer Trends for 2024 with Chris Allan, Lion Australia

January 29, 2024
By Cody Profaca

Lion Australia is a company at the very forefront of Australian beer. Not only responsible for consolidating industry trends, it is generally one of the forces dictating industry direction moving forwards, leading the way both in terms of product and marketing. One recent example highlighting both boxes is the XXXX Raspberry Lemonade Summer Bright Lager flavour, selected by public vote. The innovative brew has proved a large success since its November release.

Drinks Trade sat down with Chris Allan, Head of Beer – Core at Lion Australia, to chat about the coming year ahead in the world of Australian beer.

Drinks Trade: What beer styles are gaining popularity in Australia in 2024?

Chris Allan: Beer drinkers are looking for options that suit dietary and lifestyle needs, which is why we have added low-carb products such as Hahn Ultra Low Carb and James Squire Stride Low Carb Pale Ale among others, to our portfolio.

We’ve also seen the demand for low or no alcohol beers increasing, and strong performance on mid strength on lower ABV brands like XXXX Gold and Hahn Superdry 3.5 

DT: How much emphasis is being placed on creating innovative and diverse flavour profiles?

CA: Great emphasis is being placed on innovation as it is key in growing brands and keeping up with evolving consumer needs and trends. Both consumers and customers expect innovations from brands, and at Lion we are continually innovating.

Innovation comes from exploring multiple components, whether it be a range of ingredients, brewing techniques, or collaborations, all of which can be combined or altered to bring a dynamic and exciting range of flavours and styles of beer to thirsty Aussies. Hahn Ultra Low Carb, which was launched to market this year, is a great example of how innovating to respond to consumers’ changing needs, meets them where they are currently or where they are going.  

DT: Are there unique packaging designs or materials being used to attract consumers?

CA: We know the valuable role packaging plays in showcasing the character of our brands and products to consumers. Earlier this year, we unveiled our new packaging for our Tooheys beer – the first major update since 2015 – with a contemporary new look that celebrated Tooheys’ core brand assets, while also nodding to the brand’s rich 154 year history. 

We also leverage packaging for key cultural moments that our consumers love to celebrate. For this year’s State of Origin season, iconic Queensland beer brand XXXX released a limited edition postcode can design that encouraged all Queenslanders to show their pride in their origin and their support for the Maroons team.

Industry-wide we are seeing a lot of innovation in format sizes and range of beers in cases. Different sized cartons for example 10 and 12 packs, or multi beer packs drive trial and are a response to the current economic landscape. This is interesting as it is changing the way beer and other beverage brands are being brought to market.

DT: Are low-alcohol or non-alcoholic beers gaining traction in Australia?

CA: The sober curious trend is gaining traction among younger Australians, as the category continues to grow 16% by 2024.  It’s safe to say the popularity of alcohol-free beer is here to stay, as sales of non-alcoholic beverages at Dan Murphy’s and BWS grew by 150 per cent last year. At Lion, we have multiple low or no alcohol beers in our portfolio, including XXXX Zero, James Squire Zero and Heineken Zero.

DT: Are there any demographic-specific trends, such as preferences among younger or older consumers?

CA: 2023 has seen consumers return to the brands they know and trust, examples in our portfolio are XXXX, Tooheys and Hahn. This trend is underpinned by a revival of new nostalgia by our older customers as well as a counterculture movement with younger customers who are discovering heritage brands and finding what resonates with them.  

RTDs continue to gain popularity, with an explosion of new brands hitting the market this year, including an innovation from Lion, with the introduction of Hyoketsu, a lemon, vodka and soda RTD with 6% RBV and 116 calories per can.  

DT: How important is sustainability in brewing, and are there any trends related to eco-friendly brewing practices?

CA: Sustainability is incredibly important to us here at Lion, as evidenced by our annual sustainability performance report which maps our progress toward our environmental, social, and governance goals. Broadly, many Australian breweries are adopting eco-friendly practices in response to growing environmental awareness, like sourcing local and organic ingredients, innovative waste reduction, and renewable energy adoptions. Lion Australia became certified as a Climate Active carbon neutral brewer in 2020, which made us Australia’s first large-scale brewer to achieve this certification. Becoming Climate Active certified has allowed Lion to build upon our carbon reduction program with certified carbon credits that offset our remaining organisational carbon footprint. The year the XXXX brewery also made history again, with all beer produced at the iconic Milton site now being made using 100 per cent renewable electricity – which was a huge milestone for the site and the brand!

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