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SABMiller’s UK sales boosted by changing lager tastes

15 November 2007

Ref. no: LB 03/2007

15 Nov 2007

SABMiller plc, one of the world’s leading brewers, announces that its UK sales are rising strongly, driven by an emerging consumer preference for more exotic and distinctive premium beers. 

In the six months to September 2007, sales of SABMiller’s UK subsidiary, Miller Brands, rose by 42%, led by Italian brand Peroni Nastro Azzurro, Pilsner Urquell from the Czech Republic and Polish brands Tyskie and Lech.  The group’s Peruvian brand, Cusqueña, which is imported directly from Peru, has also seen UK sales rise by 35%, with strong gains made in London and Manchester.

“The UK premium lager market is experiencing unprecedented change,” says Alan Clark, Managing Director of SABMiller Europe.  “Some of the country’s most enduring premium beers are seeing declines following a number of years of aggressive expansion. As these big brands lose their allure, consumers are experimenting with a new generation of more distinctive beers, a development which SABMiller is well-placed to capitalise on.”

Gary Whitlie, Managing Director of Miller Brands, continues:

“A new space is opening up at the top end of the UK premium lager market, in which beers with distinctive taste profiles, authentic provenance and genuine import status are thriving.  This increasing fragmentation within the premium category presents an opportunity for UK retailers and pub-owners, as these new brands are able to command a higher margin whilst enhancing the retailer’s consumer offering.”

Research by industry experts AC Nielsen would suggest that the UK premium lager category declined by 3.5% annually year to date*.  However, AC Nielsen defines UK premium lager as beer of 4.3% alcohol by volume or more, reflecting the long established association in the UK between premium lager and higher alcohol strength.  Looked at differently, beers priced at a premium of 25% or more to an average lager market price, grew by 37% annually year to date, indicating that consumers are still willing to pay premium prices for brands they perceive to be a ‘treat’.

“Higher alcohol strength is no longer the defining characteristic of UK premium lager brands.  As this new reality takes hold, retailers can benefit by offering genuine premium brands that consumers recognise as delivering a convincing point of difference,” says Gary Whitlie.

Notes to editors
SABMiller plc is one of the world’s largest brewers with brewing interests or distribution agreements in over 60 countries across six continents. The group’s brands include premium international beers such as Pilsner Urquell, Miller Genuine Draft and Peroni Nastro Azzurro, as well as an exceptional range of market leading local brands. 

SABMiller plc is listed on the London and Johannesburg stock exchanges.

For more information on SABMiller, please visit

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Miller Brands UK
Miller Brands (UK) Ltd is a subsidiary of one of the world’s leading brewers, SABMiller plc.  Formed in 2005, Miller Brands (UK) Ltd manages the sales, marketing and distribution of Pilsner Urquell, Peroni Nastro Azzurro, Miller Genuine Draft, Castle Lager, Tyskie and Lech in the UK.

Peroni Nastro Azzurro
SABMiller acquired a majority interest in Birra Peroni in May 2003.  For decades a favourite with Italian beer drinkers, in 2005 Peroni set out to change people’s perceptions of traditional beer drinking and re-launched as Peroni Nastro Azzurro with a sleek new look that reflected its authentic Italian heritage.  The rebranding enabled Peroni to be relaunched across the world, but the beer has always retained its original cool, crisp and refreshing taste.  To support the brand re-launch, SABMiller announced the global brand strategy for Peroni Nastro Azzurro which kicked off in London with ‘Emporio Peroni’ – an exclusive non-shop boutique.  Building on the success of Peroni’s 2005 re-launch, SABMiller invested $50 million to support the brand’s global communications campaign in 2006.  As part of the global campaign, the trailblazing Italian lager delighted audiences with its remake of Federico Fellini’s classic film, La Dolce Vita.

Pilsner Urquell
Pilsner Urquell is the flagship brand of SABMiller’s international portfolio and one of the Czech Republic’s most celebrated premium lagers. Created in 1842 the brand is the world’s first clear golden lager, and the name literally translates as ‘Pilsner from the original source’. 165 years since it was first created it is still widely regarded as the benchmark against which all other lagers should be measured. Brewed in Plzen in the Czech Republic, the brand delivers a distinctive bitter-sweet taste that has been preserved by generations of brewmasters.  Pilsner Urquell is currently distributed across 40 different countries and states its global vision as being ‘the most rewarding beer choice amongst premium status beer consumers’.  Since 2005 the brand has made it its mission to support and promote photography as a contemporary art form, taking title sponsorship of the International Photography Awards, the photography equivalent of ‘The Oscars.’

Tyskie & Lech
Tyskie is the biggest brand in Poland. It is brewed from crystal-clear water from Gronie springs and the highest quality barley malt and hops. Tyskie is the result of centuries of beer brewing in Tychy and the tradition dates back to the 17th century.  Connoisseurs of Tyskie appreciate its mild, hoppy flavour, golden colour and thick, white head. This top quality has won the brand thousands of fans as well as many awards, such as gold medal and Champion’s Award at the Brewing Industry International Awards in London in 2006.  Lech is the leading local premium brand among legal drinking age Polish adults. Lech Premium is about noble bitterness and a thick, white head that retains the bouquet long after opening the bottle.  Lech Premium’s harmonious combination of the right taste and carbonation contributes to the beer’s exquisite refreshing properties.  

Cusqueña (pronounced “CUS-KEN-YA”) was first brewed commercially in Peru in 1911 and is the only Latin beer brewed to the German purity laws of 1516.  Made near world heritage site and new world seven-wonder Machu Picchu - the centre of the Incas civilization  - it is brewed using all natural ingredients including 100% malt, the finest Saaz hops and pure glacial melt water from a source at 18,000 feet in the Andes – 3000 ft higher than BA flies Manchester to London! This water is also bottled and sold as a high quality mineral water in Peru.  Cusqueña is the biggest selling super premium lager in Peru. It is bottled at source and imported directly from Peru. It is distributed in the UK and Eire by IGD “Outstanding Young Business of the Year” winners Chilli Marketing Ltd who discovered Cusqueña whilst travelling in Peru.   It is advocated by the UK’s very best bartenders as one of the best lagers on sale in the country and in 2007 it replaced Heineken as Virgin Trains exclusive lager in first class, became All Bar One’s first ever non-European beer and is now listed in some of the very top bars in the UK.

Victoria McNamee
Corporate Media Relations Manager
SABMiller plc
Tel: +44 20 7659 0172

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