Lion MD provides Drinks Trade with insight into company’s 2023 performance and future plans

February 22, 2024
By Cody Profaca

David Smith, Managing Director at Lion, reflects on the company’s 2023 performance and outlines sustainability targets and planned partnerships for the near and mid-term future.

“Australians have never had more choices in how and where they come together, and the drinks they enjoy as they do. At Lion, we understand that every time they enter a venue or a bottle shop, there’s a crucial moment when they can select our brands or look elsewhere.

We know we must earn the right both to be there when it matters and be the brand they choose to buy. 

In 2023, we continued to invest in our stable of locally loved brands and growing spirits business. Lion’s intent focus is to grow categories. We have seen some fantastic growth most notably with Hahn which is up +18.4% volume growth on the year prior and seeing growth in all states. Stone & Wood continues to show incredible volume growth, up +31%. We’re also seeing some great building momentum in our core range of XXXX, Tooheys and James Squire. XXXX has seen +5.5% volume growth nationally and it’s up 6.4% in Queensland.

We’re also aware that the typical Australian is ever more conscious of their impact on the world and how choices can drive positive change.

When Australians research the company behind their favourite brands, we want them to discover a Lion that leads in every aspect of sustainability. So, we’re proud of our record of environmental and social initiatives which include a range of Australian and beverage industry-firsts.

We look forward to working with you on shared growth opportunities and deeper partnerships as we collaborate to create an ever more vibrant and sustainable Australian drinks industry.

Company overview 

With origins dating back more than 180 years, Lion’s core beer portfolio includes many locally loved brands in Australia and New Zealand such as XXXX, Little Creatures, James Squire, Stone & Wood and Speights and a growing craft beer presence in the US, having brought New Belgium and Bell’s Brewery into the fold. 

We also have great portfolio of NZ wine brands, a premium fine wine business in North America, a craft spirits distribution arm in Australia in Vanguard Luxury Brands. Last year, we fully brought world-class distillery Four Pillars Gin into the fold.

We also made noise for our brands and products, perhaps most famously our “Pride in Your Origin” campaign, celebrating XXXX’s partnership with the Queensland Maroons for the State of Origin season. We released a limited edition XXXX can design that encouraged all of Queenslanders to show their hometown pride by lining them up to create their postcode.

In NSW, with Tooheys we transformed a local Camden pub into the “Tedesco Inn” for the duration of the State of Origin season.

We know great marketing and powerful innovation are crucial to business success. We are constantly pushing ourselves to create new and exciting products that challenge and shape the market and excite our customers.

Early in 2023 we launched Hahn Ultra – an ultra low carb beer, responding to consumer trends around mindful choice. This is latest innovation from Hahn, which a few years ago also launched SuperDry Gluten Free.

We were excited to be the first country outside of Japan to launch the highly popular Kirin Hyoketsu. Crafted with a true appreciation for the art of the Japanese lemon sour, Kirin Hyoketsu’s distinctive Lemon flavour is created using the innovative Hyoten Toketsu method. The signature technique freezes the lemon juice to deliver a perfect blend of sweet and sour lemon notes with a clean, crisp flavour without any lingering aftertaste.

At Lion, we’re also aware that the typical Australian is ever more conscious of their impact on the world and the powerful role their choices can have in driving positive change. Similarly, we know our customers want to work with suppliers that can help them achieve their sustainability goals, whilst helping them reduce unnecessary waste and costs.

We were also Australia’s first certified carbon-neutral brewer and the first to achieve 100% renewable electricity use.

As a reflection of our commitment to partnering for progress, we were the first company in Australia to group-buy renewable electricity together with its customers, enabling 200 venues to access green power at pricing they would be unable to achieve if buying alone.

Looking forward, we’re on track to achieve world-class water efficiency at our scale Tooheys and XXXX breweries, and to exceed our 2030 science-based emissions reduction targets.

We will continue to partner with industry colleagues to address the misuse of alcohol through programs like DrinkWise and our own initiatives with the likes of Gotcha4Life who do incredible work building mental health and resilience in our communities. We’re also committed to a proactive and positive contribution to our shared understanding of the causes of and solutions to misuse, violence, and anti-social behaviour. 

We look forward to deeper partnerships with you and your business in the coming year in an ever more vibrant and sustainable drinks industry.”

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