The gold of the Incas

When the Peruvian brewer, Backus, joined the SABMiller group as part of the 2005 Bavaria transaction, the company’s brands were mostly in the crowded mainstream segment. The portfolio lacked a distinctive, local premium beer.

Research showed that of all the brands in the Backus portfolio, the one with the most potential for a premium positioning was Cusqueña. The reason was partly its exotic origins in Cusco (capital of the Incas) and partly its international cachet (Cusqueña was, and is, exported to the USA and UK under the banner, ‘The gold of the Incas’).

But Cusqueña, at the time, barely warranted a premium ranking. Although the non-returnable bottle sold at a premium in Lima, most of Cusqueña’s sales were mainstream priced and limited to its home territory in the south of the country. Its bottles were old and scuffed and the original recipe had been compromised to save costs.

Relaunching Cusqueña as a national premium beer meant first upgrading the product. The business reinstated the original recipe and installed new water treatment plants to guarantee the purity of the Andean water used in the product. It also created an innovative, engraved bottle depicting the precisely carved, interlocking stones of an Inca temple – the message being that ‘the magic is in the details’.

The marketing, too, was innovative. Although premium, the relaunched Cusqueña is positioned as a beer for anyone who wants to celebrate. Initially adopted by higher socio-economic groups, it has started to be enjoyed by consumers at all social levels as distribution has extended to non-premium outlets and availability has increased. Now the first or second choice of over 80% of consumers, Cusqueña has emphatically claimed the national premium segment as its own.