Steve Young, Sales Director, Asahi UK
Q: How long have you worked for the company?
A: I’ve had a long career with the company spanning some 14 years, covering a broad number of sales-based roles for the UK and Ireland, and now overseeing our total sales operation for both the on and off-trade business.
Q: Can you give us a brief overview of the company and its brands?
A: At Asahi UK we pride ourselves on helping to enrich occasions by bringing exceptional quality, experience and discovery through our unrivalled brands and services. We have worked extremely hard over the years to curate an exceptional portfolio of premium beer, ale, cider and hard seltzer brands, including category leaders in the UK, with a specialisation in undeniable quality and provenance.
In the lager category, we have two leading super-premium options in one of the most loved brands in the UK, Peroni Nastro Azzurro, and Asahi Super Dry, Japan’s number one beer; and we have the perfect 4% premium option in another stalwart of the category, Grolsch. In ale, we have a broad range of incredible beers from the globally-renowned Fuller’s Griffin Brewery, including London Pride, ESB and Honeydew.
In craft, we have our two brilliant breweries, Meantime and Dark Star, specialising in bold and exciting flavours – with a superb range of pale ales, IPAs and craft lagers. Finally in cider we have one of the great gems of the sector in Cornish Orchards, with its hero Cornish Gold and wider range including Dry, Blush and Pear ciders, plus soft drinks – all crafted and pressed in the heart of Cornwall using British apples.
Q: How is beer performing in the Scottish on-trade?
A: The market was, of course, significantly impacted by the pandemic and closures of the on-trade, but since the easing of restrictions we have seen a boost to the performance of draught in Scotland as people head back out to reacquaint themselves with that much-missed pint in their favourite pub or bar. The evidence strongly suggests that consumers are also looking to drink better when returning to the on-trade, based on the strong performance of premium and super-premium. We fully expect this to continue.
Q: What are the current trends when it comes to beer?
A: As with the rest of the UK, we are seeing a notable trend towards premiumisation in beer across the Scottish market, with consumers looking to trade up to higher quality products. As an indicator of this trend, we’ve seen craft lager increasing its share here, and in fact craft currently has a higher share within the Scottish market than the rest of Great Britain (3.2% vs 2.4%).
There is no doubt that consumers across the board are looking for a wider variety of choice and drinking occasions. A category that plays into this very well is low and no-alcohol, both from a moderation perspective and as an alternative premium drinking choice in itself. There are clear indications too that ‘low and no’ beer options are increasing in popularity, with its performance improving versus the total beer and lager segments. We fully expect to see a continuation of all these trends in the Scottish market.
Q: What would you advise operators stock when it comes to beer?
A: It’s important to stock a range of products across different price points and ABVs to appeal to a wide selection of consumers. We recommend having a price ‘ladder’ in place that stretches up to super-premium lager.
This is the area currently showing the most growth, and consumers are looking for a broader range of super-premium brands to choose from as they want to explore the category at the higher end, so venues should always now look to offer options in this space. So, ensure you have key ‘anchor’ brands in place and then offer some more niche and explorative brands to drive interest and exploration – such as craft beers or a new super-premium lager such as Asahi Super Dry.
Q: What would you say sets your products apart?
A: At Asahi UK, we have built up an exceptional portfolio of brands to complete any bar line up, with every single one offering a strong value proposition to our on-trade customers. In the current market, our premium offering has set us apart and positioned us well to support customers with the latest buying demands and consumption trends.
We have consistently grown in share of the beer category since the reopening of the trade after the first lockdowns, and we currently hold a share of more than 16% of the premium+ lager category in Scotland. A big part of our USP now at Asahi is the huge number of high profile partnerships happening across our entire portfolio, which helps to generate excitement and recall amongst consumers. This ranges from Grolsch’s connection to major music, eg. the recently-announced partnership with the NME Awards, to our upcoming sponsorship of the Rugby World Cup 2023 in Japan for Asahi Super Dry. And many more besides!
Q: What support does your company offer on-trade stockists?
A: As well as offering an unrivalled portfolio of premium lagers, ales and ciders, we pride ourselves on exceptional and bespoke customer service. This is delivered through our dedicated and expert regionally-based field sales representatives, who are in-turn supported by our central planning, marketing and insights departments.
Our team based in Scotland have unrivalled knowledge of the local market and are focused on tailoring an offering that brings great value to their customers. Our commitment to boosting customers’ sales extends from mapping the right beers to them from our portfolio to technical cellar support and staff training on delivering the perfect serve. We also have one of the best trade marketing teams in the business, who are focused on delivering exceptional point of sale which customers can take advantage of – from glassware to gamification.
These are often connected to our national and international linkups and all are designed to bring additional entertainment and experience to the hospitality environment. Our Asahi UK account managers offer a variety of in-house support to all our customers within the Scottish on-trade. From detailed account management and direct customer support, we also have an array of super premium POS for both inside and outside our customers’ outlets, inspiring each drinker towards our brands.