It says a lot about my poor opinion of the multi-national beer producer (I was going to say brewer then but checked myself) Anheuser – Busch/Interbrew that I am not at all shocked to hear that they are being sued in the US courts for watering down their beer.
The dwindling strength of so called “premium lagers” made by AB/Interbrew has long been of concern among the beer drinkers that are in the know.
Now things are getting interesting in the USA where court cases are being heard concerning allegations that Anheuser – Busch has been systematically watering down its “beer” right on the production line. They would not do that now, would they……..?
Do you remember the old adverts for Stella Artois, which ended with the catch phrase “reassuringly expensive“?
Those adverts were being broadcast a few years ago and since then the product has changed some what. In the past 4 years Stella Artois has fallen from 5.2% to 4.8% and not many punters of good old “wifebeater” have noticed.
Stella Artois is the biggest selling lager in the UK with annual “off-trade” sales alone totalling £500.3 million (according to Nielsen). Stella Artois is made by Anheuser – Busch/Interbrew (AB InBev) who also produce Budweiser, Becks and a new beer product that will be in US stores soon labelled Lime-A-Rita a so-called “refreshing ready-to-drink margarita with a twist of Bud Light Lime.”
Now this is all good, as we all like beer and beer products that taste of margarita. However, AB InBev have made two cuts in the strength of their no.1 selling lager in the UK.
In October 2008 the following press release was issued by AB InBev:
Stella Artois ABV and packaging changes
October 23rd, 2008
Recently we’ve had some questions about differences in the Stella Artois packaging and ABV. Here’s as an explanation as to we why we decided to make the changes:
As part of InBev UK’s investment into Stella Artois we introduced new primary and secondary packaging for Stella Artois. This packaging change is happening across the globe and began in the UK from September 2008.
We used this opportunity to harmonise the ABV of Stella across channels to 5% (it was at 5.1% in the on trade and 5.2% in the off trade.)
By harmonizing the ABV we are providing the consumer with consistency and clarity. This will have no impact on the taste of the brand but will allow consumers to enjoy a consistent strength lager at home or in the pub.
So we are given the opportunity to enjoy a consistent strength lager through harmonizing product packaging with our EU neighbours. So glad about that then, as I would have hated the decision to have been made on cost saving grounds.
So Stella Artois had now slipped into the “Premium” beer ABV mark of 5% that was common to all its main competitors and here it sat until this year when its alcohol content was lowered once again.
The BBC reported the latest move will save the brewer £8.6m a year in duty from off-trade sales of Stella alone. The additional energy and raw material cost savings were not mentioned in any press releases by the World’s biggest brewer, whilst some analysts saw the move as chance to retain price points and shore up profitability of Stella.
According to The Grocer
The brewer would not give reasons for the reduction, but confirmed only beer sold in the UK was affected.
“Our decision to bring Stella Artois, Budweiser and Beck’s to the UK market at 4.8% abv during 2012 is in line with evolving UK category trends,” said a spokeswoman.
Dare I suggest that Stella Artois has lost its “Premier” status? Which is fine by me as long as the cost savings are passed on to the customer, or used to improve the quality of the product.
However one thing is certain these cuts have only encouraged Molson Coors to drop its Cobra brand from 5% to 4.8% ABV and Carlsberg to do the same with its Export lager.
So someone is losing out here. Is there a solution?
Well, one thing I have done whilst watching the Euro 2012 is made Kronenburg “shandies”. I found a case of Kronenburg 1664 stubbies (5.5% ABV) that I picked up from Calais on my way back from a trip across the Channel. One of these goes nicely in a pint glass topped up with some Stella from the 440ml can which just takes the edge off the 1664. As a consequence the Stella cans now live with the “mixers” – Once a top deck Premium beer, Stella is now relegated to the bottom shelf of the fridge with the tonics and a bottle of R Whites Lemonade.
The stubbies are gone now, so it is just a case of going back to Mother‘s Milk this Summer.