Richard Oppy: What the AB InBev Takeover Will Look Like in Australia

September 8, 2016
By Alana House
There are just over three weeks left until Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) takes over SABMiller and its subsidiary, Carlton & United Breweries (CUB), in the Australian market. From the beginning of October, CUB will begin managing AB InBev’s reputable international brands, while existing SABMiller Managing Director and CUB CEO, Ari Mervis, will step down, passing over the leadership of Australia’s leading brewer to AB InBev’s Jan Craps, who will head up a new ‘zone’, headquartered in Melbourne and comprising Australia, India and South East Asia.

This week, drinks bulletin met with CUB’s Marketing Director, Richard Oppy, to find out exactly what the acquisition will look like for the brewer, including whether or not CUB will be divesting any of AB InBev’s brands and how CUB will be managing its customer relationships moving forward.

drinks bulletin: When does the AB InBev take over officially come into effect?

Richard Oppy: Customers can start ordering from CUB as of October 1.

DB: Will the new ‘zone’ impact point of contacts for trade within CUB?

RO: I don’t think that it will have a big impact on trade in Australia. Ari Mervis, our Chief Executive Officer, will finish up on October 10 and Jan Craps will become our Zone President for Australia, India and South East Asia.

Australia is the biggest market within that zone and that’s where our focus will be, on servicing our customers.

The fact that we’ve had the best year in a long time comes down to the fact that we’ve rebalanced our portfolio towards growth categories and been quite bold with our innovation.

We launched Great Northern Super Crisp and that has been an unbelievable success. We sold 3.5 million cases in the first year. We re-launched Pure Blonde 12 months ago as the ultra-low carb beer, with 80 per cent less carbs than regular beer and 50 per cent less calories than wine. For the last five years the brand has been declining in double digits, but in the last 12 months it’s been up by 20 per cent. We launched Lazy Yak over 12 months ago and that’s now the third largest craft beer brand in Australia.

So moving forward, we’ve got a winning formula that’s working for us and with the momentum our business has, I don’t think that AB InBev is going to want to come in and make any big changes at a customer level.

DB: Are you divesting any of AB InBev’s brands?

RO: AB InBev has an enormous portfolio. We’ll be taking on their key brands in Australia, which are Corona, Stella Artois and Budweiser.

We are stoked to have Corona back in our portfolio. We all know what an amazing brand that beer is and having had that brand in our portfolio for 25 years and losing it for a couple to Lion was disappointing at the time, but we obviously welcome it back with open arms and it will be fantastic for our premium portfolio to have the likes of Crown and Corona together.

We think that we’ve got a job to do with Stella Artois to re-build its premium credentials in the on-premise.

We are currently working through the role that Budweiser will play on our portfolio. We are seeing interest, particularly with 18-24 years olds, in American sport and subcultures, and Budweiser is quite an easy-drinking style of beer so it plays to those trends of easy-drinking, low bitterness units beers brands in Australia. So I think that it does have legs.

DB: Is it true that CUB is reevaluating Cascade?

RO: We are reevaluating Cascade currently within our new portfolio. We have so many brands that we are juggling and we are focusing in particular on the AB InBev brands that are coming in, as well as Crown and Cascade.; just being really clear on the position those brands have so that they’re not competing with one another.

DB: Will CUB retain its name after October 10?

RO: I don’t have the facts on that currently, but my gut feeling is that CUB will retain its name and that we will be seen as a subsidiary of AB InBev, just like we are with SABMiller at the moment.

SABMiller is probably the best thing that happened to the CUB business. Ari Mervis has done a terrific job with looking at the longer-term of our business, fixing the quality of our product and restoring our core brands like Victoria Bitter, as well as making some bold calls on innovation and rebalancing our portfolio towards growth. I think that we are genuinely excited about becoming part of the biggest brewer in the world and the opportunities that opens up to innovation, insights and sponsorship properties. It’s going to be an exciting time for our business.
Share the content

Related Posts