Blog: Chris Brook-CarterNight on the beers

Chris Brook-Carter | 25 September 2003

Last night was spent in the company of SABMiller, its excellent PR team and imposing CEO Graham Mackay at a blind tasting competition of its expanding portfolio of international beers. I just about managed to keep just-drinks' reputation afloat by guessing three out of the six right - I just couldn't spot the difference between the Tanzanian brew and its Russian counterpart, which will probably please neither of their respective chief brewers. It did however give me a chance to take stock of just how quickly Mackay has taken the once South African Breweries forward. He has always had the Castle brand of course but in a matter of a few years has added heavy weights such as Miller, Pilsner Urquell and Peroni to the stable.
There is still plenty of work to be done, particularly in the US, which group marketing director Mark Sherrington called the company's "first and probably second, third and fourth priority". And SABMiller has yet to successfully convince it can turn any one of Miller, Peroni or Urquell from "global potential" into world-beater to rival the likes of Heineken or Budweiser.
But on a local level, the group - particularly in emerging markets - continues to lead the way. This understanding of the emerging markets was demonstrated in an interesting case study on its Polish acquisition Tyskie, which it bought in 1997. In that time SABMiller has taken the brand from a local player in the South of Poland, with only a 10.6% share of the Polish market, to the largest beer brand in Central and Eastern Europe, with a growth of 24%.

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