Brewer eying Scottish bars

Asahi UK looks to position Super Dry lager brand alongside Peroni

Asahi will be positioned alongside Peroni in bars and pubs, according to its parent firm.
Asahi will be positioned alongside Peroni in bars and pubs, according to its parent firm.

SCOTLAND is to be a “key area” for Japanese lager Asahi Super Dry going forward, according to the team at its parent firm, after what has been an eventful twelve months for Tokyo-based Asahi.

After brewing giant AB InBev acquired rival SABMiller in late 2016 the company was required to divest itself of some of its brands in order to appease competition authorities. It subsequently sold a number of brands including Peroni, Grolsch and Pilsner Urquell, to Asahi.

In the UK, this saw Asahi Europe taking over SABMiller’s established Miller Brands operation, which was subsequently rebranded Asahi UK. The firm is now responsible for marketing and distributing brands including Peroni Nastro Azzurro, Pilsner Urquell, St Stefanus and Kozel as well as Asahi.

A long-standing arrangement with Molson Coors – which sees Coors market and distribute Grolsch in the UK – has continued under Asahi.

Tim Clay, former sales director at Miller Brands UK, took over as managing director of Asahi UK at the beginning of this year. He told SLTN he is optimistic about the new incarnation of the company moving forward.

“I think there’s a better fit between Asahi and our UK business and SABMiller and our UK business,” he said, “because SABMiller’s main focus was Columbia and South Africa.

“But in terms of the international expansion of Asahi, we’re a key part of that. A much bigger part than we would have been at SABMiller.”

Clay’s appointment as MD coincided with the relaunch of Asahi Super Dry in the UK. Though the beer had been available in the country previously, it had been brewed under licence and to a different recipe than the Japanese original.

The relaunched version of the beer is produced in Peroni’s Padua brewery in northern Italy (acquired as part of the SABMiller deal), overseen by one of Asahi’s Japanese brewers.

“It was taste-tested against the authentic Japanese brew and we have got an exact match with Japan,” said Clay.

“We send the brew back to Japan on a weekly basis and it’s taste tested against all the Japanese breweries (the company operates eight in Japan).

“It’s performing incredibly well. Last week it was number two behind only Osaka brewery. They score everything out of five and it was right up there.”

Asahi Super Dry is being marketed as a ‘super premium’ beer, in line with research the firm carried out to determine the qualities consumers consider to be ‘premium’.

Clay said: “Those key traits were authenticity, the taste is very important, the brand story, the experience of where it’s drunk, and the visual identity of the brand.

“If you do all that, it constitutes a super-premium product and it can command a price.”

Super Dry is available in draught, bottle and can formats and currently has a small customer base in Scotland. Clay said this provides the brand with a “blank canvas” north of the border, and growing distribution in Scotland’s bars and pubs is one of Asahi UK’s goals for the years ahead.

In Scotland, the firm employs a field sales team of three and former Innis & Gunn and Brewdog account manager Fiona Dickie.

“We feel that a lot of customers that drink Peroni will drink Asahi and recognise that it is a premium brand with quality taste,” said Dickie.

“So naturally we’ll be looking at a lot of our customers that currently stock Peroni to drive in Asahi. And we’ve been having these conversations with them and they’re excited about it.”

Marketing activity will be another important tool for raising Asahi Super Dry’s profile in the Scottish marketplace, and, though it was too early to confirm specifics, Clay said the brand would be present at this year’s Edinburgh Festival as well as other events in the city.

“I don’t have any specific market share targets,” said Clay.

“It’s more about targeting the right outlets and the right consumers, and then generating the rate of sale and ensuring we’re getting throughput. We think we’ve got great opportunities to grow, and grow in the right way – the same way we grew Peroni. Getting into the right outlets is the main priority, and then ensuring we get the throughput. And to get that you need a great product, visual identity, but also to let your consumers know you’re there, which is why we will definitely be doing activity in Scotland.”