Saturday, 5 February 2011

Stella - Beer Blaggers and Cider Chancers


A great deal has been written about Stella Artois and InBev's rather opportunistic attempt to break into the 'expanding' cider market with the launch of their Stella Cidre. However, I wouldn't be too worried about their foray into the cider world as Stella has a proven track record of jumping on various beer bandwagons with reassuringly expensive and hyperbolic press and PR campaigns only for them to spectacularly fall off a short time later.

I mean who could forget such Stella classics as Stella Black, Eiken Artois. Artois Bock, Stella 4% and their Peeterman's wheat beer?

What do you mean, you've forgotten them already?

Artois Bock was introduced in May 2005. It was a 'Bock' style 'brown' beer based allegedly on a recipe dating back to 1892. It emerged into the sunlight in a blaze of slick marketing and publicity including, appropriately enough, a poster campaign titled 'No Respect'. Poor sales led to it being dropped in January 2008 and replaced with Eiken Artois.

Eiken Artois' launch saw another heavyweight media campaign which led predominantly on the 'oak aged' nature of this 4.6% lager and the claim that the hops were 'hand picked'. The name Eiken is Flemish for oak and InBev's hyperbole extended to proclaiming that this beer was taking lager to a 'new dimension' and that it would help retailers 'premiumise' their beer sales. By December 2008, it too had gone the way of the 'Bock' and was dropped from their product range.

Also dropped around the same period was Peeterman's Artois - a 4% wheat beer which was InBev's attempt to capitalise on the trend at that time for lower strength lagers. The wheat went out and in came Artois 4%, which was introduced in response to Beck's 4% offering, Vier. I'm getting confused now by all this chopping and changing on InBev's cooking lager conveyor belt.

And to make matters even more confusing InBev launched, in Summer 2010, Stella Artois Black lager. It's not black but it is 4.9% and is marketed as a 'deluxe' lager for 'posh' people which is 'perfect for those special occasions when consumers want to try something new and different.' Again, this was backed by a huge cinema and magazine ad campaigns.

Can you see a trend developing here?

At every step of the way, they have been behind the curve and playing catch up with the market. No originality, no innovation. Just a vain hope that throwing mega amounts of cash at campaigns can convince drinkers to change their ways and buy their product. Judging by the beers I've listed, it doesn't seem to be working.

Now Stella makes the move into cider in an attempt to take a piece of the market created by Magners and Bulmers. It's quite laughable and all rather desperate and very probably far too late in the day to be thinking about tapping into this market.  The cider with ice market surely peaked a couple of years ago, didn't it?

How long before Stella Cidre goes the way of the Bock, Eiken and Peeterman's and is consigned to the dustbin at InBev's Head Office marked 'Cynical and Opportunistic Failed Products'?

I give it a year from launch.


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