Brewing giant SABMiller recently revealed plans to look into fruitier and sweeter beers to woo the ever-expanding populations of wine and spirit lovers. Brand Union consultants Emily Nicholson and Adrian Pring look at the key factors for building rich and compelling beer brands.
The concept of fruitier beer flavours is not entirely new. We’ve already seen premium Belgian beer brand Leffe launch sweeter varieties in the past - such as Leffe Ruby ‘with the delicate notes of red forest fruits’ – and recent summers has seen even the driest of cider brands embrace the addition of pear, passion fruit and strawberry flavours.
But with Carlsberg’s new blackcurrant flavoured beer hitting supermarkets across the country, and similar innovations to come from rival AB InBev, it looks like supermarkets are going to have to make room on their shelves for an onslaught of fruity beer additions.
With two global beer companies already launching new products, SABMiller has set itself a steep challenge in announcing that it will be competing for those consumers with a sweeter tooth. Though this challenge needs to be tackled at pace, SABMiller needs to be smart with how it communicates these new products, borrowing not only flavour profiles but brand lessons.
Wine and spirits brands have traditionally emphasised key elements such as provenance, craft, flavour profiles, ritual and consumer experience to entice their audience, and these are all elements which beer brands can also emphasise in order to differentiate in a market that is already full of choice.
When trying to woo regular wine drinkers, embracing the art of storytelling and sharing the brand provenance can add a sense of romance. Traditional mainstream beer brands are often perceived to originate from huge industrial factories, a far cry from the beautiful rolling vineyards of the French countryside or the mountainside distilleries of the Scottish highlands. Narrating the origins of the beer and its cultural influences can provide an initial hook, transporting consumers to far-flung places and charming them into purchase.
Not only can the art of storytelling paint a picture of where a beer was born, but it is essential when communicating the craft of product creation. As with all the best whiskies, brandies and Russian vodkas, careful consideration of ingredients and a genuine passion for method can make all the difference.
Detailing the brand’s craft adds richness and depth to the drinking experience, giving eager consumers an opportunity to develop opinions and connoisseurship around ingredients, methods and how these impact quality and flavour.
Beers that celebrate their ingredients and craft are also well placed to engage their consumer through flavour and scent commentary. Just as wine has always boasted a culture of tasting notes, palette appeal and aroma descriptors, beer is increasingly being suggested as a complementary food pairing - elevating kudos and cultural appeal.
It's vital that brands don't neglect the 'sessionability' of beer
Reverting once again to the Leffe brand, their website offers extensive product descriptions including expert advice and recommended food pairings. This trend is gathering pace with television cooking shows and restaurant menus, challenging previous preconceptions of when and where beer should be consumed. Though the example of Leffe is a more premium one, beer brands will have to communicate the sensorial benefits that the various fruits offer, and how they offer a more positive experience.
Whilst the above thoughts identify ways to ‘premiumise’, it is vital that brands don’t neglect the ‘sessionability’ of beer. Beer remains a key part of many consumers’ repertoires because it is so easy to drink (and carry on drinking), and adapts to a broad range of occasions: from Oktoberfest to a quiet one down the local pub.
With this in mind, developing flavoursome beers with lower alcohol content and a lighter bubble could represent a key opportunity, helping to elongate the session and expand the occasion set. With lifestyles changing and lower alcohol products attracting less stigma there is considerable potential for such variants, but it is important to pay attention to rituals and behaviours, making sure that consumer experience is always top of mind.
Ultimately, brewers need to remain close to their target consumers, understanding the subtleties of their ever-discerning tastes. Many that have come before SABMiller have fallen into the trap of making assumptions or coming across as condescending to a set of consumers that aren’t loyal to their brand. Brands like Animée and Carlsberg Eve miss-stepped by patronising female consumers, suggesting that girls don’t enjoy drinking beer – a sure fire way to alienate a group of potential brand fans.
If a beer brand is to be successful in creating new habits amongst the ever-sophisticated drinker, it will need to think about the whole product experience to deliver something truly compelling. It’s easy to talk about taking a new direction to attract a fresh audience, but delivering on this new direction in an authentic and relevant way is no small feat.
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