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Summer battle brewing

SWAN Brewery considers itself a WA icon.

Its logo includes the State emblem and is a “fabric of society”, according to managing director Mike Molloy.

The brewery has long dominated the local beer market.

States are very proud of their breweries and, more particularly, their products.

Queensland has XXXX, New South Wales Tooheys, South Australia West End and Tasmania Cascade and Boags (though some have been swallowed by bigger breweries).

However, brand and State barriers have largely been broken (you’ll find plenty of Boags Premium in WA but don’t count on a West End).

Giant brewers such as Carlton and United Breweries and Lion Nathan are aggressively seeking new market share.

WA is no exception. CUB claims it has 42 per cent of the 300 million litre WA beer market after a 20 per cent increase last financial year.

It has also usurped Swan for the riband sponsorship of AFL clubs West Coast and Fremantle – though it was achieved at a very high price.

This has shaken Swan out of its lethargy, engendered largely by its long-term dominance of the market.

It has Mr Molloy talking about a program to “reignite” the brewery” and “reinvent the trademark”.

The Lion Nathan-owned Swan has been forced to take a good look at its backyard. Summer will determine its success.

Swan has revamped its image and logo, supported by a new advertising campaign, has launched a new brand and added another import, dropped other brands, made labelling and packaging refinements and, due to the loss of the AFL sponsorship, changed the direction of its sponsorship.

It won’t be easy. CUB has made serious inroads into the market and Carlton Midstrength is one of the State’s biggest selling brands.

To counter the remarkable success of Midstrength, Swan developed Swan Mid and is easing out long-term brands Swan Gold and 1857.

“The biggest issue was that there had been a decrease in our share of the mid-strength market and we had to face up to reality,” Mr Molloy said.

“Our competition had done a good job. It was fairly disappointing (to lose market share) but at the same time it made us look at our total portfolio which led us to make some bold decisions.

“Our portfolio was cluttered and tight and it needed to be rationalised.”

The early success of Swan Mid had given the company confidence it could win back market share because it was “having an impact on our opposition”.

Swan Mid had performed “well above” expectations, though Mr Molloy conceded it was “very early days” given the beer has been on the market for about 13 weeks.

He said the company was selling more midstrength beer since the launch, but was typically coy about the amount of the sales.

“There has been a increase – not significant – but it has grown week by week,” he said.

“(CUB) has been making a lot of noise and seem to be enjoying beating their chest.

“When Mid really starts performing well I hope they’re as accessible.”

The success of Swan Mid means production of Gold will cease two months ahead of schedule.

“A lot of Swan Gold drinkers are moving over (to Mid), which was one of our greatest challenges,” Mr Molloy said.

He said Swan still dominated sales, with about 70 per cent of the full-strength market (about 52 per cent of all sales), about 55 per cent of mid-strength sales (about 35 per cent), about 75 per cent of light-strength sales (about 5 per cent) and about 30 per cent of premium sales (about 8 per cent).

Other changes by Swan include Swan Draught being made available as packaged beer and the addition of Germany’s Beck’s – the UK’s biggest imported beer – to the import premium range.

Mr Molloy said Hahn Premium, Hahn Premium Light and Tooheys Extra Dry were among the company’s best performing brands.

The company has also endeavoured to “lift” its image by designing a more “contemporary logo”.

“The brand relaunch was part of reinventing our trademark. We have changed the logo to make it more contemporary, simpler and clearer,” Mr Molloy said.

He said 95 per cent of brands sold by Swan were produced locally.

It is a point the company is keen to promote as it seeks to be “more involved in the community”.

“We have to make people positive about Swan,” he said.

This has in part been forced by the loss of the $1 million sponsorship of the Eagles and Dockers, that the company offered to double to maintain.

Mr Molloy said Swan would increase its support of grassroots football – “where more beer is drunk anyway” – and other sports such as soccer and horse racing and investigate opportunities in the community.

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