Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Brand X vs Brand Y

Blogger Mark Wadsworth has familiarised us with the concept of Indian Bicycle Marketing, whereby manufacturers use a lot of advertising fluff to distinguish products that are largely identical.

I was reminded of this on reading this report about a new marketing initiative for Kronenbourg 1664. No mention whatsoever of product characteristics, just a lot of publicity guff and tat to create a bit of excitement. “The on-pack promotion offers shoppers thousands of chances to win a variety of prizes, including a trip for four to the Alsatian mountains, mini fridges and bottle openers.”

We seem to have a range of “premium lagers” competing for attention in both the on- and off-trades which people struggle to tell apart. Could any pub drinker really give you a meaningful description of the difference in flavour between San Miguel and Carlsberg Export?

The one exception is Peroni, which has established a clear position of the leader of the pack, and commands an appropriate price premium. In my experience, it’s the best of the bunch, with a clean, crisp taste, and a small but important advantage in terms of strength at 5.1% ABV. Significantly, it’s not available either in Wetherspoons or in cans. It’s also a genuine import, but that doesn’t seem to help Heineken very much.

The one characteristic on which it might be possible to establish a point of difference in the market, namely alcohol content, is now effectively barred as a result of government initiatives. I’ve argued in the past that, at least in the take-home market, there would be a strong opening for a premium lager *that bit* stronger than the others, maybe around 5.5% ABV. But no major brewer dares do that – just look at the aborted launch of Stella Black a few years ago.

Back in its heyday, Stella Artois achieved that, as Pete Brown often reminds us. It was both noticeably stronger than the competition, at 5.2% ABV, and was also a premium product made from superior ingredients. But that position has been steadily eroded, with both its strength and quality dumbed down, and now it’s down towards the bottom end of the premium lager pecking order.

Kronenbourg 1664 is the best bangs-per-buck on the Wetherspoon meal deals, by the way. Say no more.

By coincidence, Tandleman posted yesterday about craft lagers. But I’m not sure whether they’re likely to tempt many drinkers away from Peroni.


  1. Peroni is a phenomenon that seems to have replaced the fizzy ciders in the affections of middle class young drinkers, particularly in London. I guess that's more to do with styling than authenticity or taste, though it is decent. I had a taste of the wife's San Miguel in a Greene King place last eek (it was hot) and it was decent, certainly better than my rubbish half of IPA.

  2. Nastro Azzurro is clean to the point of being almost tasteless. Give me a bottle of Corona instead any day. I had a bottle of Peroni Gran Riserva Doppio Malto a few weeks ago which was fantastic.

  3. Isn't Heineken brewed in the UK?

  4. No. The old, weak "cold-filtered" version was, but when that was withdrawn they made a point that the full-strength 5% version would all be imported from the Netherlands.

  5. I remember years ago first tasting Stella (in it's 5.2% incarnation) and thinking it was great - Way ahead of any other lager I'd tried. I'm not sure if that's down to my having an unsophisticated palate at the time or that they've cheapened the brew since. Possibly a combination of the two.

    Nowadays my go to cheapish n cheerful "off licence" lager is Heineken - It's decent enough & not made with maize or rice & that'll do me. I prefer DAB but there's no Bargain Booze near me & I've not seen it anywhere else.

  6. A nice cold Peroni hits the spot on a hot day. If I'm in the mood for lager I usually go for Peroni, Heineken or Grolsch (rarely find it though) and at a push I'll go for Amstel. A Peroni hangover is brutal though.

  7. Home Bargains have recently been selling Baltika 7 (5.5% ABV) for £1.39 a bottle, which knocks spots off all the mainstream lagers mentioned here.

  8. Tesco a few years back sold bottles of Bohemian Black Lager, which was delicious. It didn't look or taste like lager though, which is probably why I liked it!

    They stopped selling it though, bah!

    I've no time for lagers, except for Carlsberg Special - the King of them all.

  9. When we go to Italy, near Venice, you rarely see Peroni, it's mainly Italian Dolomite or Austrian Forst on draught, we end up drinking bottled Edelstof which is tasty and not too gassy

    As to the 1664, isn't that another of the traditional English beers brewed at the Heineken Brewery in Manchester along with Fosters?


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