Sales of Peroni were at a record high for Miller Brands last year, posting double-digit volume growth

Sales of Peroni were at a record high for Miller Brands last year, posting double-digit volume growth

The boss of Miller Brands, the UK subsidiary of SABMiller, says he is focussing on keeping Peroni Nastro Azzurro positioned as a premium brand, but  remains “very cautious” about its distribution. 

Earlier today (24 May), Miller Brands revealed its lager volumes grew 8% over the 12 months to the end of March, driven by record “double-digit” volume growth for Peroni, despite a declining overall UK beer market. Pilsner Urquell and Kozel also grew by double digits over the year.

Gary Haigh, Miller Brands MD, told just-drinks Peroni had become a “zeitgeist” for the British public in its seven years in the UK market. 

But he added: “We've always been cautious about doing the right thing, making sure it's driven by rate of sale, so it's not just about being everywhere.

"It would be easy to put Peroni in every pub, but I don't think that's the right approach." Miller Brands later declined to say how many on-trade and off-trade premises Peroni was available in.

Asked if the company is wary of following the same path as Anheuser-Busch InBev has with Stella Artois, Haigh said: “It's something we are very, very cautious about.” But he added: “Let's remember Stella had 20 years of outstanding growth, so maybe 'the next Stella' is not a bad thing, as long as you can make it 40 years of outstanding growth.” 

Addressing the issue of off-trade promotions, Haigh, who became head of Miller Brands in August, said: “We feel there is more value in a brand if the promotions are of a gentle nature.

“I'm not saying we are never on promotion. I'm sure you can find it (Peroni) on promotion if you wander around an Asda or a Sainsbury's, but it doesn't need the kind of big box discounting you see on some other slightly mainstream brands.” 

He also suggested that Peroni has benefited from the changing make-up of the UK pub industry, where more permium outlets were opening and looking for a point of differentation.  

Haigh, who has also spent time with PepsiCo and Diageo, admitted sales in April and the first half of May had been “very sluggish” due to bad weather in the UK.

But, looking ahead to a lively summer of events in the UK, he added: “If we can get some weather like this, we'll have a very good summer: we're owed it. The events will give us a real bit of top spin, particularly in the London area.”

Miller Brands' parent company, SABMiller, reported net profits today of US$4.48bn, up 75%.