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Fruit beers help to spice up SABMiller in Europe

Fruit-flavoured beers along with non-alcoholic and light beers are being launched in eastern Europe by beer giant SABMiller Plc to refresh beer markets slipping below previous high growth rates.

The world’s number two brewer which brews Castle, Miller Lite and Peroni beers, brought Redd’s fruit-flavoured beer from its homeland of South Africa into Poland in 1997 and then into Russia where it has seen especially strong growth.

Redd’s first appeared in Europe as an apple-flavoured beer but was quickly followed by raspberry, lemon, peach and now even coffee and cola, which has helped to offset the slowing of beer industry growth in eastern Europe in recent years.

"Fruit beers have gained not just from female consumption, but also from those drinkers that like variety and have the willingness to experiment," said Alan Clark, managing director of SABMiller Europe in a briefing at the group’s European headquarters in Budapest earlier this week.

Redd’s volumes were up 22 percent last year in Europe, and in Poland some 82 percent of the beer was drunk by women.

The London-based brewer which maker Pilsner Urquell, Tyskie and Ursus beers in eastern Europe, has also seen early success from non-alcoholic beers in the Czech Republic and Slovakia while the lighter style Czech beer Kozel surprised expectations.

Kozel, meaning goat in Czech, was considered a unremarkable relatively low alcohol 3.8 percent Czech beer, but proved very popular after its launch into Slovakia five year ago, into Russia three years ago and Hungary last year.

"The goat continues to surprise, it is quite tough to work out what in the brand is leading to its success," said Clark, after Kozel volumes rose 27 percent last year.

Meanwhile in Poland, the group launched a sweet-styled amber beer named Dog in the Fog last year backed by what SABMiller calls "English" humour advertising and the beer is now nearly matching the sales of Pilsner Urquell in Poland at around 100,000 hectolitres of beer a year.

Reuters - 30 September 2006
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