Cooper’s this year celebrates its 150th anniversary this year so you can expect plenty of news coming from the brewery, including this feature length media release outlining some of the brewery’s recent achievements.
If you missed it over the weekend, we also released our lengthy interview with Managing Director, Dr Tim Cooper, in which he speaks at length about Coopers’ place in the current brewing industry and their future plans.
Coopers Celebrates 150 Years of Brewing
Coopers Brewery is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year and is already setting its sights on the future.
Now the largest remaining Australian-owned brewer, Coopers has been securely in family hands since its founder, Thomas Cooper, a former stonemason and shoemaker, produced his first commercial brew in May 1862.
Its Managing Director, Dr Tim Cooper and Chairman and Marketing Director, Mr Glenn Cooper, are both great great grandchildren of Thomas Cooper and in charge of day to day operations.
Four other members of the Cooper family work full time at the brewery, including Rachel Cooper-Casserly, the first of the sixth generation of Cooper to hold a permanent position.
Dr Cooper said Coopers currently produced about 63 million litres of beer a year to hold 4% of the Australian beer market, but is expecting to continue to increase its market share in coming years.
“We have been on a steady growth path for the past 15 years, during which time we have averaged 10% compound annual growth in beer volumes,” he said.
“In 2001, we commissioned at Regency Park a modern, efficient brewery which we planned for ongoing growth. Since then we have expanded our presence throughout Australia, particularly in the Eastern States, as a result of our marketing activities and the good work of our sales and distribution company, Premium Beverages.
“We are confident of further significant growth in coming years as our beers become more widely available in club, pubs and retail outlets across Australia and overseas.”
The survival of the company also owes much to the development of Home Brew kits, of which Coopers is now the largest manufacturer in the world.
Coopers’ Regency Park brewery replaced Coopers’ old brewery in suburban Leabrook, which had been in use since it was opened by Thomas Cooper in 1881. The old brewery had reached its maximum brewing and fermenting capacity because of site constraints from urban consolidation.
In 1997, former Managing Director Bill Cooper perceived the opportunity of Regency Park when he noted the availability for sale of the former State Transport Authority Workshops. In 1998, the site was purchased with provisional approval for a brewery development, and Coopers’ warehousing and distribution operations were moved from Norwood to the large pre-existing building.
The new brewery was developed under the watch of Dr Cooper. It cost $40 million to build and represented the largest investment in Coopers’ history. Since then, an additional $80 million has been spent on expansion and capital equipment purchases.
Dr Cooper said that because his design team had the engineering scope to develop the brewery from new, Coopers took the opportunity to incorporate a number of elements of environmental sustainability from the outset.
This included using saline groundwater rather than mains water, the development of a natural gas fired cogeneration plant, and extensive water and energy recapture. Significant advances have also been made in various aspects of packaging, engineering and distribution.
The installation of a second mash tun in August 2011 increased the number of brews the brewery can produce by 50%, giving it a potential production capacity of 90 million litres a year before any further expansion is required.
Coopers won its position as the largest Australian-owned brewery in December 2011, when Fosters was taken over by SABMiller.
“Our rise to our new found status, on the eve of our 150th anniversary, was achieved almost by default,” Dr Cooper said.
“However, it is a badge of honour we wear with pride as it represents the reward for 150 years of hard work by the Cooper family.
“Continuing our growth will require the ongoing commitment of everyone at the brewery, working to provide Australian consumers with a quality product.”
Coopers’ Chairman and Marketing Director, Mr Glenn Cooper, said the new status would provide Coopers with additional marketing and brewing opportunities, but may not necessarily result in increased sales.
“The Australian beer market at the moment is tough, with overall consumption having fallen slightly in the past 12 months as a result of economic conditions,” he said.
“Certainly being the largest Australian-owned brewer in the country gives us a new marketing tool, along with our 150th anniversary, but these will just be some of the factors when consumers decide which brand they purchase.”
Coopers’ most popular products continue to be its traditional top fermented ales, a style of beer that most breweries in Australia have long abandoned in favour of lagers.
Coopers Original Pale Ale represents 62% of total Coopers sales, and Sparkling Ale 14%.
Coopers Clear, which was introduced in 2010, now represents 8% of total sales and is a solid competitor in the low-carb sector.
Its major market remains its home state of South Australia, which represents 33% of total sales, but interstate sales are increasingly important, with New South Wales now representing 27% of total sales.
Mr Cooper said that Coopers had planned a series of events across the nation to celebrate the 150th anniversary, including the release of a special anniversary beer.
Details of the new beer are still under wraps, but in keeping with Coopers tradition it will be a bottle conditioned ale.
Mr Cooper said details of celebratory events would be unveiled from May onwards, the anniversary of when Thomas Cooper made his first commercial brew.
When Thomas Cooper started brewing, he entered a competitive field. In 1868, Coopers was just one of 10 breweries in Adelaide, with 33 others in country South Australia. However, by 1954 only Coopers and South Australian Brewing Company remained, at which time Coopers was producing over 8 million litres of beer, or 22% of the bottled market.
Since 1977, Coopers has been brewing the ultra low alcohol beer Birell from a Swiss formula, and now under contract from Carlsberg.
Apart from this and its own range of products, Coopers also contract brews and distributes the popular Japanese beer, Sapporo Premium, after signing an agreement in Tokyo in July, 2011.
Dr Cooper said it was anticipated that sales of Sapporo would reach 500,000 cases within five years.
He said the beer was a clean, all malt lager that was becoming increasingly popular world-wide and would add to the portfolio of beers distributed by Premium Beverages. Further negotiations are under way with the ongoing purpose of expanding this portfolio.
Coopers today has 142 shareholders, mostly descendents of Thomas, and some 130 employees within the brewery which operates over three shifts. There are an additional 65 employees working outside of SA in subsidiary companies.