The relationship between independent craft beer and Australia’s major retailers

March 21, 2024
By Cody Profaca

Following an article published yesterday outlining certain views of the independent brewing industry, Drinks Trade felt it would be useful to reach out and ask what the larger retails felt about the claims made by the cited sources.

Firstly, it’s important to recognise the ways through which these retailers have directly enabled craft beer growth. Since 2020, the number of independently owned beers sold across Coles Liquor Group has more than doubled. The statistics have been similar across Endeavour Group stores.

“In 2014, we stocked almost 350 craft beer products. In 2024, that range has since increased significantly to more than 1,500 products from more than 1,000 different brands,” said a spokesperson for Endeavour Group.

“Over the past 10 years, 88% of all new beer lines have been craft beer; they represent more than 70 percent of total beer products in market.”

Another issue that the independent brewing industry tends to have with the larger retailers is in regards to their private labels beers. For Coles Liquor, its 70 private label brands make up only 2.2% of its overall beer range, which is about the same as it was last year. Many of the business models of these private labels also bring direct benefit the craft beer industry.

One example is the Tinnies brand, which has won significant craft beer accolades such as a gold medal at the 2022 World Beer Awards. Tinnies is brewed for Coles Liquor by Brick Lane Brewing, an independent brewery, and hence is directly supporting independent craft despite being an own-label brand owned by Coles Group. The prominence of Tinnies gained through the partnerships Coles Liquor is able to fund has also likely had positive trickle-down effects industry-wide. 

“We know our customers love craft beer and we currently offer more than 1,400 different independent craft brews to suit every budget, drinking preference and occasion,” said Coles Liquor in a statement provided to Drinks Trade. 

“In our latest range review independent breweries made up 90% of new beers such as South Australia’s Shifty Lizard Brewing and Victoria’s Coldstream brewing.  

Endeavour Group’s private label brands are produced under its Pinnacle Drinks business. 

“Our branded consumer drinks business, Pinnacle Drinks, produces and distributes quality brands to our stores and to export markets,” said a spokesperson for Endeavour Group.

“Customers benefit from new and innovative products from both Pinnacle and our diverse supplier base.

“We always look to work with drinks producers that are innovating for customers.”

The size and scale of the larger retailers, whilst often considered anti-craft, has enabled their support of programs and initiatives that seek to better the craft brewing industry as a whole.

“To further support the local industry, in January First Choice Liquor Market was the platinum sponsor of the GABS Hottest 100 craft beer festival which showcases the best craft brews in the country,” said the Coles Liquor statement.

“As part of the partnership, we exclusively sold a pack which included beers from eight breweries such as Aether Brewing, Black Hops Brewing and Kaiju! Beer.” 

Another example of Coles Liquor’s proactive approach to helping differentiate between independent and non-independent craft beer by adding the Independent Brewers Association Seal to all craft beers sold on its online site. Endeavour Group also feels its products are marketed fairly and accurately.

“Endeavour owned brands are clearly labelled Pinnacle Drinks and do not display the Independent Brewers Association logo.”

In short, the ‘us and them’ attitude present in much of the craft beer community’s dialogue towards the larger retailers should be considered as misleading at times and inaccurate at others. Both Coles Liquor and Endeavour Group have been essential factors behind the success of craft beer in Australia, and it is clear that deconstructing certain stigmas would bring benefit to all parties involved moving forwards.

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