Olly Wehring

The beverage business blog from Olly Wehring

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The glory days of a pint at lunch - RIP?

12 May 2006 17:29

Now, some of our readers will remember with fondness the halcyon days when a beer or two at lunchtime wasn't just a well-earned treat, it was almost compulsory. I, sadly, missed the boat on the lunchtime-drinking-becoming-half-a-day-in-the-pub times of journalism. But I'm told that it was great.

A survey from law firm Browne Jacobson, meanwhile, has found that 57% of businesses in the UK now actually ban drinking during the working day.

This reminds me of the story we wrote last year about the Danish brewery workers who went on strike when management limited when and where they could drink the product they made.

I'm very interested to know, therefore, how this works out at other alcoholic drinks companies. Are you allowed a drink? Are you even encouraged to have a drink? Or is it strictly hands off until after five?

Do let me know.

Cheers.

Comments on this blog post

During the 18 years I worked at the Brahma Breweries, from 1972 t0 1989, it was okay for workers to drink pasteurized beer from large jugs jugs in the plants, while staffers drank same from 300ml glasses in the staff self service restaurants and management and directors drank from 300ml cristal glasses in restaurants with service. The same throughout some 20 branches. The other choice was to drink Guaraná or other Brahma soft drinks or Tonic Water,Soda or just plain filtered water. Those on diets or medical restrictions could ask for milk(urgh!). I left the company, then dominated by several family shareholders about six months before control was taken over by an Investment Bank and sure enough, many things began to change!A few years later Brahma Breweries absorbed (bought) the Antarctica Group to become AMBEV in a move that very strangely got past the CADE (Brazil's so-called anti-monopoly agency) giving AMBEV over 70% of the market! Just a few years later AMBEV was absorbed by Belgian based INBEV and so ceased to be a Brazilian Company. Oh well, a well known brazilian economist once said Brazil's social status was a mixture of Belgium. and Bangladesh! So I rather doubt employees of the InBev group here and in Belgium are allowd to drink as much beer as they feel fit anymore...you could check this out at their Brussels headquarters, no?!

 

Peter Armstrong, Brazil

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LIWSF - Start your engines

11 May 2006 14:00

I presume that, like me, you have received your visitor badge for next week’s London International Wine & Spirit Fair.

Here, then, follows a list of what else to bring: passport, toothbrush, business cards. You may want to bring a suit as well (don’t want to look underdressed). And maybe some Red Bull, because it’s going to be a long three days.

And we here at just-drinks are raring to go. Not only will we be out in force at the event, we’ll also be filing stories as and when we get them around ExCel – Live from the Fair, if you will.

The good news for you all is that ExCel has wireless Internet access. The bad news is that it’s not that cheap. The better news, then, is that just-drinks is offering all visitors to the fair free Internet access, at its Executive Internet Centre at stand G10. Check your emails, surf the Web or check the latest sports news – for free.

After the popularity of the service last year, we’ve increased the number of stations at the show. With six free Internet stations and a research desk managed by the just-drinks team, the stand is guaranteed to be a useful resource for anyone at the show.

So, we wish you a relaxing weekend, and look forward to welcoming you to London next week. Here’s to a successful few days.

Check out the LIWSF Website for full details of who will be attending, and click here for a floorplan for this year's event. Remember, we're at stand G10, by entrance S3.

Comments on this blog post

We're on S14 and raring to go too although a little puzzled as to why they've chosen the same notation for the entrances as for the stands ... so you guys are G10 by entrance S3 (which sounds reasonably OK) but we're S14 at entrance S8! I reckon that those at stands S1-S8 can expect record visitors as a result ... Have a great weekend and see you there!

 

Fran Law, United Kingdom

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A-B and Miller - will the bickering never stop?

05 May 2006 13:37

There are a few things guaranteed in life: death, taxes – and the odd spat between Anheuser-Busch and Miller Brewing, are certainly among them.

This week, Miller dismissed the ‘Here’s to Beer’ campaign – an industry-wide initiative led by A-B to promote the beer category as a whole – as only serving the interests of the Budweiser brewer. A-B had tried to garner industry support for the campaign, but has been left to handle the effort on its own as rival brewers opt to focus on their own brands.

Yesterday (4 May), St. Louis hit back, arguing that ‘Here’s to Beer’ had won industry-wide backing, pointing out that wholesalers and retailers around the country were supporting the campaign. Moreover, Bob Lachky, the A-B executive in charge of the campaign, was quick to point out that rival wholesalers were putting their weight behind the initiative and insisted the marketing drive did not need the endorsement of other brewers.

The campaign is a personal crusade for Lachky, the man behind many of A-B’s marketing successes in the past. He is adamant that ‘Here’s to Beer’ is working, with the domestic beer category up during the early part of this year and beer beginning to win back share of throat against wine and spirits in some US states.

A-B has been less bullish, however, about last week’s revelations in the Wall Street Journal that the brewer had changed the recipes to Budweiser and Bud Light in recent years. The WSJ – the second most read paper in the US – quoted A-B chairman August A. Busch as saying that he ordered more hops to be added to the beers. This admission comes after A-B had repeatedly denied Miller’s claims that it had changed the recipe for Budweiser and Bud Light.

Naturally, Miller was delighted at A-B’s ‘confession’ and the giddiness in Milwaukee must have reached record highs last week, as Miller sent a plane flying over A-B’s St. Louis HQ with a banner that read: “Sire, sire, pants on fire” (No, I didn’t get it either).

It was a stunt that left A-B employees scratching their heads in bewilderment but maybe Miller shouldn’t be so hasty in revelling in others’ discomfort. A-B saw domestic volumes rise 4.6% during the first quarter of the year, the first signs of a turnaround from last year’s disappointing performance. Meanwhile, Miller’s parent, SABMiller, revealed in a trading update last month that Miller sales-to-retailers were down 1% for the year to 31 March.

SABMiller reveals its full financial figures for the year on 18 May – only then will we really discover if it has been left with egg on its face.

Comments on this blog post

Bud buys there way into everything for advertising. and they price gouge there competitor's to keep and grow there market share. I think it's fitting that you should get to pay less for a medioaker product. It's refreshing to see SAB Miller mixing it up with the king. Miller's beer portfolio has better quality hand's down.Also Sire meaning king, king king liar liar pants on fire seems fitting to me.

 

Tom from Cali, United States

As a former employee of A-B and a stocholder I wish the company well. However, August A. Busch III is getting old and the management team that his son has put in place is weak at best and synchophants at worst. A-B will continue to struggle as good people leave the organization because they have the fortitude to stand up to the Busch famuly. Busch is running the company not for the good of stockholders, but to make sure his son is placed the CEO's chair before he retires.

 

John Garavaglia, United States

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Beer before wine, feel fine - wine before beer?

03 May 2006 16:21

My three-week adventure in Argentina came to an end last week, and no sooner do I get back than our friends in the brewing industry, who may have felt somewhat neglected during my wine exploits, give me something to write (home?) about.

The race to snap up Foster’s Asian brewing interests appeared to take an interesting turn last week, with Asia Pacific Breweries mooted to be the new front-runner. Industry sources told just-drinks that, while Scottish & Newcastle and SABMiller were the original favourites, APB seems prepared to stump up more cash for the assets.

In the US, meanwhile, the continuing backbiting between Anheuser-Busch and Miller saw the latter pull “I told you so” poses, with A-B admitting that it had changed the recipes of Budweiser and Bud Light, despite its dismissal of Miller’s claims late last year as “just another marketing ploy”.

And with Molson Coors set to announce its figures early this week, it looks like the brewers are set to hog the limelight for a little while longer.

Looming on the horizon, and itching to steal a share of the limelight, meanwhile, is the London International Wine & Spirit Fair. The event, which has become the seminal meeting point for the world’s wine companies, returns this month, and just-drinks has all the bases covered – not only will we be there in person, with our own stand where you can come and say hello and check your emails, but we’re also launching a preview diary today. Every day between now and 16 May, we’ll be running a page highlighting who’s doing what, when and where at ExCel.

To let us, and all our subscribers, know what your plans for the LIWSF are, drop me a line at editor@just-drinks.com, and we’ll put you in our diary.

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(Late) Postcard from Argentina

27 Apr 2006 15:30

As custom dictates, my postcard to you all from Argentina arrives after I return home. Back at the helm, I still had time last week to raise a dram to you, dear reader, in front of the Perito Moreno Glacier (ice from the glacier, of course).

Sincerest thanks to Wines of Argentina for making this photo possible.

 

Comments on this blog post

After how many glasses did you took the picture? Glad you enjoyed the trip. Hope to see you soon. Ariel

 

Ariel Menniti, Argentina

One of the most impressive sites I know

 

Victor Lewitus, Israel

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Foster's reborn

19 Apr 2006 10:36

A warm welcome back to all of you after what was – hopefully – a relaxing break over Easter. Easter is a time when thoughts turn to new life and last week we saw one of the industry’s major players taking a decisive step in refreshing and revitalising its business.

Australia’s Foster’s Group tied up one of the loose ends of its flagging international brewing business with the sale of the rights to the Foster’s brand in Europe, Russia and parts of the CIS. And with the sale of its brewing assets in Asia likely to follow in the coming months, Foster’s, under the steady command of president and CEO Trevor O’Hoy, is moving to reposition itself as a global premium wine producer.

The deal was the first sign that Foster’s had accepted the end of its dream to be a key player in the global brewing industry. The company had invested heavily in the world’s emerging beer markets but returns from their operations in markets like India, China and Vietnam were not good enough – and Foster’s found it nigh on impossible to compete with the brewing giants of InBev, SABMiller and Heineken.

Nevertheless, last week’s sale of the rights to Foster’s in Europe is likely to leave the company in a stronger position in an ever-consolidating wine industry. Foster’s is likely to have taken more than a passing interest in Constellation Brands’ recent acquisition of Vincor International, a deal that strengthened the US group’s position as the largest winemaker on the planet. Foster’s now has a considerably stronger balance sheet and is in a better position to expand via acquisitions or invest more cash behind marketing its stable of wine brands, investment that is growing all the more necessary in the wine industry with the growing power of retailers around the world.

For more on a brighter future at Foster’s, check out our Hot Topics section: http://www.just-drinks.com/topic.aspx?ID=21

And for those who have scoffed one too many Easter eggs over the last few days, check out our look at the rise of ‘wellness’ products. http://www.just-drinks.com/topic.aspx?ID=20

Some of the language used by soft drinks producers to promote their expanding range of ‘functional’ or ‘nutraceutical’ wares may be a little clumsy but I’m sure some of you will find some solace that there are healthy options on offer after gorging yourselves on chocolate over the weekend.

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The future of wine tourism

11 Apr 2006 12:09

One final point from me, before I disappear into the Argentinean sunset for a couple of weeks...

Naturally, I’ve been spoilt rotten over here, with flagons of wine, enough steak to floor the most vociferous of carnivores, and overnights in hotels that I wouldn’t normally be able to afford in a month of Sundays.

One of these hotels got me thinking, though. This one located in the north-west of Argentina, is part of the El Esteco winery, whom I was a guest of last week.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this is not an advert – it’s just that, with so many winemakers in stunning parts of the world struggling a little (yes, Monsieur France and Matey Australia, I mean you), what better way of opening another revenue stream by opening a hotel? My esteemed peer and travelling partner, wine writer Simon Woods, noted on the trip that New Zealand has some pretty good hostelries attached to wineries, and I can attest to the superb set-up at the Fetzer winery in Hopland, California.

The arrangement at El Esteco, however, is that the winemaker has rented a chunk of its buildings to Starwood Hotels & Resorts, to run and maintain.

Although our hosts wouldn’t go into figures, this feels to me like the ideal path for wine tourism to take in what, for some, are troubled times.

Comments on this blog post

El Esteco is the Michel Torino winery up in Cafayate and I was lucky enough to stay up there last November with two Majestic wine buyers as our guests. Great place to stay , the health spa is 'awesome' and the wine is a bonus. Well worth a visit if you're passing through Argentina!!

 

Mark Denison, United Kingdom

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Old master of the New World

10 Apr 2006 14:04

A warm, slightly gloating welcome to the beginning of your week from Mendoza in Argentina. I’ve been dragged, kicking and screaming, to this staggering country by its wine trade body, Wines of Argentina. If they pull anything like this again, I’m telling my dad.

It’s been an eye-opening few days. Having spent the last two-and-a-half years writing about the country’s wine exploits, it’s been a pleasure to put faces to names. In fact, it’s been one pleasant surprise after another.

One surprise – to me at least – is the heritage Argentina’s wine industry can boast of, that flies in the face of its New World moniker. Having been making wine for around 150 years, and boasting a per capita wine consumption at one point of around 90 litres, the term New World looks like an oxymoron to me – and indeed to them.

The country’s winemakers take great pride in the legacy their country carries, and having been on the international stage for only nine years, the fifth-largest wine producing nation could be perfectly poised to exploit Old World dramas and Australian crises.

With apologies for this wine-soaked missive, last week’s big story was the eventual sale of Vincor International to Constellation Brands. Of course, hindsight is a wonderful thing, but, like many, I could never see the US wine giant take Vincor’s initial snub last year so quietly. For further musings on the first big wine buy of the year, check our Hot Topics section.

Meanwhile, all this fun has got me quite exhausted, so I’m off for a fortnight’s holiday around the rest of Argentina. Recommendations of what to do and where to go are all gratefully received at the usual address.

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Times are a-changing

04 Apr 2006 16:14

Well, it’s the end of week one of the new-look just-drinks.com, and – bar a few technical glitches – the rebirth has gone startlingly smoothly. Many thanks to all of you who gave me your feedback on the new design and layout – the majority gave us a resounding thumbs-up, and the glitches brought to our attention should be ironed out within the next few days.

A couple of interesting issues caught my eye last week, meanwhile. The first were the results of a UK consumer survey, which concluded that less than half of the UK population trusts the nutritional claims made by food and drinks companies.

The survey drew similar conclusions about European and US consumers, so no-one appears safe in the trust-stakes. Naturally, this situation should worry everyone in the drinks industry – consumer perception is something that takes years to cultivate, and just as long to get back. And, more’s the point – if consumers don’t trust nutritional claims, does that not stretch to all other claims made by companies?

Secondly, I was in London last Tuesday (28 March) for a briefing by premium soft drinks brand Shloer. The company, bought by the SHS Group last year, has spent time looking at its target consumers and how best to get more of them drinking its product (sound familiar to any of you, by any chance?).

Recent research told Shloer that the use of celebrity to market a product was no longer believable. This could have worrying repercussions for some drinks companies out there, who pour millions of dollars in the direction of the famous and fabulous.
Are the times a-changing? Or has our new look just made me obsessed with change?

For more info on the ‘sceptic’ survey, click here: http://just-drinks.com/article.aspx?id=86055
For more info on the Shloer event, click here: http://just-drinks.com/article.aspx?id=86021&lk=s

A quick shout out too for our Hot Topics this week, which have looked at the Britvic Soft Drinks Report (http://just-drinks.com/topic.aspx?ID=14), the perils, pitfalls and potential of trading in China (http://just-drinks.com/topic.aspx?ID=15) and what lies ahead for Foster’s in Asia (http://just-drinks.com/topic.aspx?ID=16).

Now, you’ll forgive me for leaving you in the capable hands of news editor Dean Best, while I nip to Argentina to see how they make wine. Updates as and when I can get away.

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A new born just-drinks, a new born Brook Carter

29 Mar 2006 13:25

It gives me tremendous pleasure to announce a new addition to the just-drinks family... of sorts.

This morning, at 0800 our esteemed former editor - and now group news editor - Chris Brook Carter, and his wife, Abby, welcomed baby Jack into the world.

At 8lb 15oz, Jack is probably set to follow his father on the rugby field, although if someone can make a laptop small enough, there's nothing to say he couldn't help out on this esteemed organ some time soon.

Congratulations to you both, Abby & Chris, from the just-drinks team.

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