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CUB: We love our brands…to death.

January 24, 2014

So, CUB has killed off Bluetongue. Not completely unexpected and, no doubt, a sound business decision. What’s writing off a $120-million dollar investment after all.

It’s not too good for the 64 ‘devastated’ staff who have been offered counselling. It’s probably not good for the Central Coast of New South Wales which loses another employer and economic driver. But, again, that’s business.

I have to admit though that my first thoughts were of the long line of discarded beer brands that Bluetongue joins, and of last year’s trade mark case.

Last year CUB appeared in court, hands wringing, talking about loving its brands and its heritage. It seems to love its brands and its heritage so much that it can’t wait to add new brands to its honour roll of the dead.

While John Singleton may cry crocodile tears at its closure, while continuing to count the money he made from selling the brand, he does make one interesting point.

Given it seems he never sold out of the brands and instead collected a royalty on sales, it’s no surprise that John Singleton cried into his unobtainable beer at the declining sales,

“Just to think, this mob [SABMiller] has taken a brand that was a bigger seller than Cascade to absolutely nothing in little over a year.”

It reminds me that an earlier incarnation of SABMiller’s CUB purchased Bernie Powers’ eponomous brewery, which had over ten per cent of the Queensland market when purchased by Fosters. Today it is a memory.

Still, there is a certain degree of po-facedness in the statement from Chief Operating Officer Mike Walsh announcing the closure. He says…

“The decision [to close Warnervale] also impacts the Bluetongue brand, which will be phased out over coming months. The brand was important to Pacific Beverages but has been in decline over recent years. When it joined the CUB family, Bluetongue was competing with a strong suite of core brands such as Victoria Bitter, Carlton Draught and Carlton Dry.”

In saying that, the company conveniently forgets to mention that it had little interest in developing the brands. Despite the apparently strong suite of core competing brands, one of SABMillers first orders of business last year was to enter into a licencing agreement to brew and market Byron Bay lager from the Warnervale Brewery. This was in competition to Bluetongue, both in the market and in internal business focus.

Last year’s trade mark case essentially a walk through the graveyard of beer brands bought and quickly killed off by the company that loves its history.

As CUB  told the ABC’s AM program, it’s “passionate about its heritage brews and it releases them to give pubs a point of difference and to allow people to reminisce about iconic brews of the past.”

It’s so passionate about them it seems to love nothing more than turning its living brands into heritage ones. I wonder how long we’ll have to wait for a nostalgia release of Bluetongue.

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2 Responses to CUB: We love our brands…to death.

  1. Jeff Richards on January 24, 2014 at 12:10 am

    On the same day, SabMiller announces $110 million and 400 jobs go to Nigeria. While in Australia, the closure is due to oversupply of capacity . So why then move all the brewing capacity to Queensland at huge expense? It’s like spitting in your dad’ glass of beer.

    I can’t wait to see what the Accc have to reveal in a few months. ( by the way, why you guys silent on this major news story?)

    • Editor on January 24, 2014 at 6:36 am

      Hey Jeff – there’s been pretty much saturation coverage of the ACCC thing and at this stage it’s just an investigation…were waiting to see what, if anything, results. Given the ACCC found only a few years ago that Lion taking over Coopers wouldn’t result in a major diminution of competition, it will be interesting to see what they make of tap contracts. I’m most interested in seeing what the powerful lobby group the AHA submits, if anything, about it. But again, what can we say now that adds to the discussion? We’ll wait and see what unfolds.

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