Under the radlar

A statistical question for you courtesy of The Groper* magazine – stats that on first reading shocked me, but made sense after I engaged my brain:

Which part of the UK beer market has enjoyed growth of almost 40% in the last 12 months?

Regular readers** will know that this isn’t cask beer, which shock! horror! is not in growth at the present time.

Any ideas?

Well let me tell you, it is the mid strength moderation category***, a name coined by the Hiberno-Dutch axis that is Heineken UK.

Surprised?  Perhaps – but by which element?  Stepping back from this, it makes sense that lower alcohol beers are in growth.  The Government has incentivised brewers to focus on them.   Despite there being traditionally only limited demand for low alcohol beers (and I’m not talking about the low gravity quaffing beers that were consumed by the daily gallon in the halcyon era of heavy industry), brewers have got innovative. Right across the spectrum there are beers popping up from micro sized breweries, to regionals like Marstons and multi-nationals doing lagery stuff.  Many are tasty, others less so; many are ‘straight’ beers, others are flavoured.

I was more surprised by the name coined – ‘mid strength moderation’.  Yes it’s a nonsense, made up, industry term.  Yet it’s interesting – most ‘categories’ of beer as mentioned by Nielsen are purely descriptive:  ‘Standard Lager’, ‘Premium Lager’, ‘Superstrength lager’ and so on.  But here is a description that is suggesting to you its usage: moderation.  It begs a question I suppose, about what is ‘moderation’ – is it drinking pints of a low ABV beer or is it the way you consume?  I consider myself a moderate drinker, but at home the typical ABV of beers I consume is 5%.

No, this is a very deliberate attempt by Heineken to legitimise and give drinkers a reason and a motivation to consume low alcohol beer – it will be interesting to see if it sticks, particularly as they are deploying it for the first time on a new launch: Foster’s Radler – a 2% ABV lager, ‘cut with cloudy lemon’.    In itself, this is interesting. Foster’s = Australian swilling beer; Radler = style of German shandy / panaché. I  don’t suppose many Foster’s drinkers will be aware of, or particularly care about the heritage of ‘Radler’ beers so I don’t want to read too much into it, suffice it to say, with Molson launching Carling Zest, and now Heineken jumping on the bike**** these are beers that are pretty certain to stick around. The question is whether they will achieve significant scale, or end up achieving only moderately so.

*In the current climate this could be seen as a cheap and undoubtedly inappropriate joke, but its roots date much further back than that – it’s just been bubbling along waiting for a stand up script writer to ignore it.

** Hello, Sid.

***Sorry, last use of Asterisk the Gaul before I have to move to Roman Numerals.  Actually, the figures are A C Nielsen, but used by Heineken in this context. And for accuracy, the figure quoted was 39% growth for beers 3.3% ABV and under in the 52 weeks to w/e 5.1.2013. And breathe.

****Dang, apologies.  Radler comes from the German rad or bike.  See what I did there?

©Beer Tinted Spectacles, February 2013

Author: David Preston

Brand expert; beer enthusiast; outdoorsman; fell walker; writer; eclectic observer; pun lover

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