Sapporo deal strengthens Coopers premium beer grip

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FAMILY-OWNED independent brewer Coopers Brewery has strengthened its grip on the high-growth premium beer market, inking a deal last night with Japanese brewer Sapporo to brew and distribute the brand in Australia.

Woolworths previously held an exclusive licence to import Sapporo, but the beer will now be made in Australia for the first time and sold throughout Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands using Coopers’ distribution operation. The deal comes as brewers fight it out for control of premium beers, especially imports, as local mature brands, such as VB (brewed by Foster’s) and Tooheys (brewed by Lion Nathan), experience flat sales.

Adelaide-based Coopers remains the largest independent brewer in Australia. It has experienced strong growth from its portfolio of premium and craft beers.

Advertisement: Story continues below A contract between Coopers and Sapporo was signed last night at Sapporo’s headquarters in Tokyo, with Coopers managing director Dr Tim Cooper and Premium Beverages managing director Bruce Siney in Japan to seal the deal.

Premium Beverages is 80 per cent owned by Coopers and handles the beer company’s distribution operations.

The new deal is part of a push by Sapporo to expand its reach in the South Pacific. The beer sells about 100,000 cases a year in Australia.

Under the terms of the agreement, Coopers will brew Sapporo Premium Beer at its Regency Park brewery in Adelaide, with sales and distribution to be handled by Premium Beverages, from October 1.

Foster’s Group said it expected to receive about $390 million in total from the Australian Tax Office after the conclusion of its long-running Ashwick tax litigation in May. It had received progress payments so far of $317 million from the Tax Office.

However, Foster’s does not expect to be able to frank its final 2011 dividend and will be unable to frank subsequent dividends until it resumes paying Australian tax.