Carlton & United Breweries has added an organic version to its Pure Blonde range and has taken the unusual step of publishing the recipe for the beer.
CUB marketing vice president Brian Phan said the move, a first for the business, was in response to growing consumer interest in what goes into what they drink.
“We’ve created Pure Blonde Organic because beer lovers are increasingly conscious of the ingredients that go into their favourite drinks,” Phan said.
“And to ensure people know exactly what’s in Pure Blonde Organic Lager, we are publishing the entire recipe and brewing process. Now anyone in the world from competitors to home brewers can make their own Pure Blonde Organic Lager. It’s a disruptive marketing campaign for a disruptive new product.”
Global data and analytics firm GlobalData said the move represents a bold step towards production transparency.
Katrina Diamonon, consumer analyst at GlobalData, said Pure Blonde has enjoyed ongoing success in Australia since its initial launch in 2004, owing to its recognition of Australians’ growing health consciousness and its impact on their consumption choices.
“Given that the brand is not only disclosing its product formula to consumers but also to competitors, it is a calculated gamble by the company,” she said.
“Still, it has merits given the importance that consumers attach to natural formulations and the associated notions of purity and wellbeing.”
According to GlobalData’s 2019 Q3 global consumer survey, 24 per cent of global drinkers proactively seek alcoholic beverages that contain only natural ingredients, while an additional 45 per cent of drinkers proactively seek alcoholic beverages that contain some natural ingredients.
“As the product formulations of alcoholic drinks become increasingly scrutinised, brands that prove they have nothing to hide are likely to garner consumer interest and ultimately loyalty,” Diamonon said.
However she felt that a potentially problematic aspect of the campaign is that by giving away its valuable trade secrets, key product attributes such as ingredients and the production process appear to be undervalued in favour of marketing impact.
“In a category that arguably catalysed the craft movement, uniqueness and creativity continue to be influential characteristics for beer drinkers. Going forward, it will be critical for beer brands to strike the right balance between transparency and originality.”
Perils of transparency
As part of the transparency campaign the brewer has taken the unusual step of publishing the recipe in a 3,539-word description on billboards.
The publication of the ingredients and brewing process ventures into areas that are usually off-limits for large brewers, which tend to avoid discussing the finer details of brewing process. The marketing copy for this campaign takes a warts-and-all approach, replacing the traditional malt, water, hops and yeast and instead drawing attention to the more technical aspects of the process.
Included in the description is an acknowledgement that the beer is brewed at high gravity before being diluted to 4% abv prior to packaging, that it uses a significant percentage of liquid sugar in addition to malt, and employs added enzymes and that malt extract to increase mouthfeel. This, they explained, is because with low carb beers “the liquid you have now can feel quite watery and light”.
There is a fine line between transparency and commercial-in-confidence on one hand and marketing over substance on the other, a balance that CUB appears to be taking seriously.
The campaign originally used copy that referred only to pelletised Certified Organic Pekko hops being used in the recipe. In response to a question from Brews News about whether light-stabilised hops were also used in the light-green-bottled beer, a company spokesperson acknowledged the oversight, saying that the recipe does include light-stabilised hops, which are added at filtration.
“The omission of the light-stabilised hops from the printed recipe was an honest mistake,” the spokesperson acknowledged. “The error should have been picked up in our review process.”
“We are updating our digital assets, including billboards and social ads, over the next week.”
The statement additionally noted that light-stabilised hops are not organic, however this does not affect its organic certification by Australian Certified Organic.
“As the ad notes, up to 5 per cent non-organic ingredients are permitted as long as these ingredients meet certain conditions.”
The initial copy also included the following copy:
Send the leftover spent grain to local farmers to be reused as animal feed. These farmers may or may not thank you with a firm handshake and a stoic nod of the head that says, “I’ve seen many things on this here land. Drought, floods, the birth of a two-headed baby calf. But never, in all of my years of back-breaking toil, have I seen a gesture quite like this. Thank you, kind man and/or woman. Thank you.”
Brews News enquired whether CUB had changed its policy of selling the spent grain to farmers, as the copy appeared to suggest, or whether the grain was actually sold to farmers. A spokesperson acknowledged the grain was sold.
“Good call about farmers. The line was tongue-in-cheek, to add some levity to the ad, and should not have been in the final copy. We’re removing this line in all digital assets,” the spokesman said.
Organic versus carbon-footprint
Pure Blonde Organic is certified by Australia’s leading organic body, Australian Certified Organic (ACO), though the campaign also balances the marketing aim of creating an organic product with the practicalities of sourcing organic ingredients. The Pure Blonde recipe highlights that the organic Pekko hops are sourced from the USA, the organic barley from Germany, the organic sugar from Brazil and the malt extract sourced from the UK.
Announcing last month that its flagship beer VB was ‘going green’ CUB said that by 2020, VB will be brewed with 100 per cent offset solar electricity acknowledging the business had to “do our bit for the environment to ensure we can continue brewing for centuries to come.”
Asked whether sourcing organic ingredients from across the globe was consistent with the VB announcement, the spokesperson said the release of Pure Blonde Organic would not affect that campaign.
“And it will not affect CUB’s commitment to sourcing 100% of purchased electricity from renewable sources by 2025, something we are very confident of reaching well before then.”
“In addition, we are confident of reaching our further target of reducing CO2 emissions from 2017 to 2025 by 25% across CUB’s value chain.”
CUB also announced the release of Pure Blonde Organic Cider, replacing the original Pure Blonde Apple Cider. No recipe was provided for the cider. Pure Blonde Organic Lager is an addition to the Pure Blonde lineup and joins alongside Pure Blonde Ultra.
As part of the campaign a competition is being run to design the packaging, with a prize $5,000 offered.