Why Coca-Cola is exiting beer & cider in Australia

Coca-Cola Europacific Partners has announced it’s decided to exit the beer and cider market in Australia after a strategic review of its operations.

The decision means West Australian craft brewery Feral Brewing is up for sale, with industry players telling the Australian Financial Review they expected the business could fetch between $50 million and $60 million. Boutique investment bank Kidder Williams has been hired to run a sale process.

“On the back of the double-digit growth our Feral brand has achieved over the last four years and the strong business and brand loyalty the Feral team in WA has built, we are excited about what the future holds for Feral Brewing Company,” said CCEP General manager for Australia, Pacific and Indonesia, Peter West.

“It’s time for this craft brand, a WA jewel, to stretch its potential under new ownership.”

The Australian speculated that buyers for Feral Brewing could include rich listers such as Gina Rinehart and Andrew Forrest or other brewers such as Asahi or Lion. However, Lion is already under scrutiny from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) following its acquisition of Stone & Wood. Asahi faced a long battle for approval to buy CUB and was forced to offload its Beck’s and Stella beer brands and cider brands Strongbow, Bonamy‘s and Little Green to Heineken to appease the ACCC.

What other brands are being offloaded?

Coca-Cola Europacific Partners said the arrangement in Australia with cider producer C&C Group – maker of Magners – will also come to an end during the first half of 2022. And its agreement with Molson Coors to distribute brands such as Miller, Miller Chill, Miller Genuine Draft, Coors and Blue Moon will not be renewed in the coming months.

CCEP said it will be working closely with customers and brand partners to ensure a smooth transition that allows for the continued growth of brands that the CCEP team has “worked so hard to build”.

Rekorderlig and Australian Bitters will continue to be managed in CCEP’s alcohol portfolio alongside its Spirits and RTD brands.

General manager for Australia, Pacific and Indonesia, Peter West, said: “We are very proud of the journey and performance we have had in our beer and cider portfolio after close to two decades. The next growth phase for the portfolio to become a stronger key partner with our customers would require significant over-investment to accelerate scale.

“As a bottler of iconic brands such as Coca-Cola and Jim Beam, this would come at the expense of focusing our efforts, teams and innovation on our core Spirits, RTD and non-alcohol RTD portfolios, where we have a much greater ability to drive category growth.

“A move away from beer and apple cider will allow for greater focus for our teams to execute our exciting growth plans in Spirits, RTD and non-alcohol RTD and enable the future partners of these beer and apple cider brands to continue to accelerate their performance.”

In the six months to July 3, alcohol delivered strong growth in Australia (+5.0% vs 2019) driven by spirits and RTDs.

Earlier this month, Australia was the first market to launch the Canadian Club Soda & Lime RTD; while CCEP recently launched its first hard seltzer in Australia, Topo Chico. It also distributes the hugely successful Canadian Club RTDs.

Signs CCEP was preparing to sell

Feral Brewing sold 100% of the company to Coca-Cola Amatil in 2017. At the time, Amatil said it was a space it doesn’t currently play in, but is in strong growth, “which plays perfectly into our long-term beer strategy to build our business to scale through credible beers that really resonate with today’s consumers.”

In August, CCEP announced Feral Brewing would be closing its brewpub in the Swan Valley near Perth after almost two decades. The brewpub was first opened in 2002 by founders Alistair Carragher and Brendan Varis. Varis departed the business last year during Feral’s 18th birthday celebrations.

“We continue to go from strength to strength, much like the ABV in Biggie Juice, but as a business and a brand, we’re looking to the future,” the brewery said.

And the future, it seems, is a new owner. Watch this space …

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Categories: Business