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CASTLE MALTING NEWS in partnership with Polish
09 November, 2021

Brewing news Australia: Coopers Brewery sees beer volumes tumble 8% in first four months of new financial year

Coopers Brewery beer volumes have tumbled 8 per cent in the first four months of the new financial year because of lockdowns in Sydney and Melbourne and uncertainty in other markets, The Financial Review reported on November 9.

Coopers, which has about 5 per cent of the national beer market and is Australia’s largest family-owned beer company, makes about three-quarters of its sales outside of its home state of South Australia.

Total keg sales in the four months to the end of October tumbled by 28 per cent after hospitality venues were shut in Sydney and Melbourne, managing director Tim Cooper said. Packaged beer sales could not offset the slide in those extended lockdowns.

“It’s been smashed in New South Wales and Victoria,” he said. “A lot of it is on the bulk side”.

It had been a tough start to the year after a solid performance in 2020-21 when net profit rose 5.8 per cent to A$25.5 million when a jump in sales of beer in cans and bottles to households drinking at home rather than in pubs and bars.

Dr Cooper said sales of packaged beer hit a record in 2020-21.

Coopers Brewery generated a pre-tax profit of A$36.5 million for the 12 months ended June 30, compared with A$34.3 million a year earlier. The company has about 170 shareholders, most of them part of the extended Cooper family, and they will receive a fully franked dividend of A$13.50 a share, up slightly on the previous year when the company cut its dividend for the first time since 1994.

Coopers is a small player compared with brewing giants Carlton & United Breweries, owned by Japanese giant Asahi after a A$16 billion buyout in 2019, and Lion, which makes Tooheys, XXXX Gold and West End, and is owned by Japan’s Kirin.

Total beer volumes climbed 2.8 per cent to 82.3 million litres for 2020-21. It was still shy of the record high of 83.8 million litres in 2016-17.

Dr Cooper said total sales rose more than expected given the lockdowns and restrictions in 2020-21. Beer sold in kegs was down 21 per cent compared with two years earlier before the pandemic arrived.

But he said being Australian-owned was a plus. Consumers wanted “authentic” brands where they know the exact provenance. “There’s a flight to tried and trusted brands,” he said.

The popularity of cans keeps growing.

Dr Cooper said canned beer now made up about 30 per cent of total packaged beer sales. The flagship Coopers Pale Ale is the biggest seller in cans, while XPA, Sparkling Ale and
Mild Ale have also shown solid growth. He said while the cost of aluminium was rising for cans, the biggest problem in supply chains was sourcing pallets. “That’s a bit of a hand to mouth situation,” he said.

The company spent A$2 million upgrading a keg line at its brewery at Regency Park in Adelaide’s western suburbs in readiness for a return of demand, and also refurbished 55,000 kegs.

The company is also planning a A$15 million expansion of warehousing at the site and has just submitted plans to the local council for that project. It will lift beer storage capacity by about 50 per cent.

Coopers Brewery is also undertaking a share buyback at a price of A$425 per share.

Coopers has about 20 per cent market share in South Australia, where Lion has just permanently shut the 160-year-old West End Brewery in Adelaide a few months ago.

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