Comment - Will Carlsberg's Leap into Lemons Prove Bitter?

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Carlsberg's unveiling yesterday (8 April) of a new alcoholic lemon drink strikes me as a bold, rather odd and - dare I say - slightly desperate move.


Seth & Riley's Garage is a 4.6% abv drink “inspired by the US tradition of 'made-at-home lemonades'”, according to the blurb put out by the brewer. A company spokesperson branded the new launch as an “anti-alcopop proposition”.

“It (the brand) has a more mature image, is less sweet, more natural and appeals to adults 25 and over ...  primarily for low-tempo occasions,” the spokesperson said. “In contrast, alcopops are for night-time, high-energy occasions.” 

This is not the first time the Danish brewer has tried such a launch. Eighteen years ago, when alcopops - or RTDs as the industry refers to them - were at the height of their popularity, Carlsberg launched a brand called 'Lemonhead'. This was also, in essence, an alcoholic lemonade. The result? It eventually disappeared. 

So, why now for Seth & Riley's Garage?

Carlsberg believes it has spotted an opportunity. The company points to the US, where sales of alcoholic soft drinks, or the “hard drinks” category as it calls it, are now significant. Presumably, the firm has had its hopes buoyed by the success of brands like Mike's Hard Lemonade in the US

Seth & Riley's Garage will be initially launched in Canada and Russia, with a subsequent roll-out to Denmark and the Baltic countries. 

But, in the week when Carlsberg has lifted the curtain on a new craft brewery in Sweden in partnership with Brooklyn Brewery, why bother getting involved in this sub-category? Is the brewer not confident enough in its own core beer offering, albeit now with fruit-flavoured variants? And, with Somersby Cider, the company has plenty of opportunity to exploit the growing US hard cider market.

The trend for mixing beer and spirits is all well and good. But, when a brewer starts talking about an "anti-alcopop proposition", I begin to question the long-term view.

Granted, it's just one brand. But, as I've written previously, the trend for sweeter alcoholic drinks will, in my view, only blow up in the industry's face over time

Where will this corruption of categories end? 

Sectors: Beer & cider, Soft drinks

Companies: Carlsberg

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