20 January 2023

UK top lager brands: international labels lead

United Kingdom | If you look at the list of the ten best-selling beers in the UK in 2022, nine of them are international brands but all are brewed in the UK: Carling (originated in Canada), Foster’s (Australia), Moretti (Italy), Peroni (Italy), Coors (USA), Stella Artois (Belgium), Carlsberg (Denmark), San Miguel (Spain), and Amstel (Netherlands).

Unless you are a beer snob, does this blurred provenance really matter?

In the past, it would have mattered, because any beer which said “imported” on the label could charge a higher price than a domestic beer brand.

The ten best selling lager brands in the UK in 2022 (Image: thedrinkslist.com)

Nowadays, the Big Brewers argue that it is far more environmentally friendly to brew their best-selling brands at numerous breweries around the world, rather than have to ship millions of hl per year all the way from their country of origin. It is also far more cost-effective.

Besides, brewers know that punters really drink the label. Consumer may think they are buying a leading beer made in Mexico, Spain, or Italy, but they do not check if it says in small type that it was brewed locally.

Madri lager, anyone?

A case in point is Madri lager, invented and brewed by Molson Coors. It was first introduced in the UK in 2020. By 2022 it was the sixteenth biggest draught beer brand in British pubs, serving around 150,000 hl in the year to June 2022. That is nearly twice the sales volume of Beck’s, which sits at around 80,000 hl.

“Madrí is a completely manufactured and invented brand,” the beer writer Pete Brown told the magazine Time Out. “It’s purely a marketing reflex exercise. And it’s probably the best [marketing campaign in the UK] we’ve seen since Peroni.”

“Mediterranean lager is the hottest category going, and it’s growing faster than anything else,” Mr Brown added. Given the success of Peroni and Moretti, Molson Coors had to invent one. The marketing spin says that Madri (short for Madrid) is a collaboration with the Spanish craft brewer La Sagra, which Molson Coors bought in 2017. However, Madri has got nothing to do with La Sagra, as La Sagra is based in Toledo, not in Madrid, and Madri is not one of its beers.

The question remains: “Would punters buy that beer, and be willing to pay a premium for it, if they knew it had been brewed in a regional British town alongside non-premium beers with the same ingredients?”

In any case, discerning drinkers can always opt for a locally produced craft beer.

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