Carlton and United Breweries yesterday issued an apology for changing the packaging on its Carlton Dry stubbies from twist tops to ring pull caps.
After a tirade of damning comments on social media, CUB has reversed its decision, promising a return to twist tops by March this year.
The controversy started in October last year when CUB announced that “Australia’s most refreshing and uncomplicated beer” was becoming “even more straight-forward” with the advent of ring pull caps.
“From today, all Carlton Dry stubbies will be fitted with easy-to-use ring pull caps instead of twist tops,” the CUB statement read.
“The new ring pull stubby will see the bottle size slightly reduced from 355ml to 330ml to help ensure it remains one of the most affordable beers on the market, at a time of rising brewing costs and government beer excise increases,” the statement continued.
A flood of social media commentators condemned CUB’s changes to its Carlton Dry stubby, with many picking up on the fact that they had been cornered into paying more for less.
The reduction in bottle size from 355ml to 330ml-stubbies with no price change has meant that customers are paying the same amount for almost two stubbies less.
One Facebook user commented on a video post by CUB on its Carlton Dry Facebook page, “The new tops are more a hazard then a improvement! You’s [sic] reduced the beer size and you lose even more when you spill it everywhere from trying to get these stupid tops open.”
Another wrote, “Not impressed… and not to mention the mls that have disappeared. And please, don’t tell me to buy cans… I prefer to drink out of stubbies. So until you change back, I won’t be back”.
While another said, “I can live with the ring pull even though it is ridiculous, but why have you reduced the size of the bottle but left the price the same. Wake up and take in what everyone is saying. I bought Tooheys Extra Dry on the weekend”.
In yesterday’s apology, CUB admitted that it was wrong.
“We are sorry to our loyal Carlton Dry drinkers. Of all the brands to overcomplicate things, it should never have been us.”
In a further effort to stem the flow of disgruntled customers, CUB has also promised to keep its prices unchanged, saying that it would not pass on any production cost increases for a 12-month period and that it would absorb the Government’s February tax increase on beer.
Despite negative opinion, there has been some positive feedback from Carlton Dry loyalists.
One Facebook fan commented, “As a Carlton Dry enthusiast I’m not at all fussed about the lid, as long as it comes off”.
Another wrote, “Same old taste that’s all that matters”.
This isn’t the first time CUB has sought to avoid raising the cost of its products by using the veil of a packaging change.
In March 2008, CUB reduced the size of its Cascade stubbies from 375ml to 330ml without changing the price on the mainland.
At the time of the launch, then Cascade spokesperson Liz McLauchlan said that the carton price had dropped by $4.27 in Tasmania but in no other state or territory. By October 2008, after a massive drop in sales and a tirade of public criticism, CUB acquiesced, promising to return Cascade stubbies to their former size and sell them at the 330ml price.
In a similar mishap in 2007, CUB dropped the ABV on its flagship Victoria Bitter brand from 4.9% to 4.8% and then again in 2009 to 4.6%.
A CUB spokesperson said at the time that lowering the ABV would lower excise tax, saving the company approximately $10 million.
The company was forced to return VB to its former full-strength glory in 2012 after another disastrous consumer response.
The then CUB CEO Ari Mervis, wrote in an apology letter to Victoria Bitter drinkers that the company had “got it wrong”.
“A few years ago, we made several changes to the recipe of your favourite beer. We altered the brewing process and we got it wrong… But we’ve listened to you – our loyal customers – and now we are determined to make it right. Today I’m pleased to announce that we are restoring Victoria Bitter to the recipe that made it the best cold beer. It will soon be back to its original full flavour full strength at 4.9%,” Mervis wrote.