Sometimes a company just walks into its own trap.   Fosters for example is very much associated with the classic Monty Python line “What has Australian beer and making love in a canoe got in common, both are f**king close to water”.   So the news that they are launching a new variant called Radler, which is a 2% blend of beer and cloudy lemon juice has just punched a hole in the bottom of that canoe.  In reality what they are actually launching is a “posh shandy made with crap beer”, and spending £4 million on launching it.

The style was apparently inspired by the “Radler” style of beer from Germany, and according to Fosters figures is a popular drink style in Croatia, Hungary and Austria.  They state that they are hoping to create a “new lager sector” in the UK with the drink, but I’m struggling to see where that market will come from.  If you want a shandy, you order a freshly mixed one at the bar, if you want an alcopop you are not going to be interested in a 2% ABV product, if you want a beer, you order a proper one.

Fosters are marketing this as a “mid strength lager“.  This isn’t the biggest joke in this whole story however, that is reserved for the fact that they have decided to charge a premium price for the product despite its low alcohol percentage because “We think it looks premium” and that is because “We decided not to put it in cans. And we think its look means it will sell at a premium price, even though there is less alcohol”.  This is utter nonsense that just because it is in a bottle it is perceived as premium, this would make every real ale you buy bottled a premium one, and the mere presence of Greene King in this beer sector destroys this theory immediately.

However lets go back to that “mid strength lager” categorisation they use.  First point, where is the low strength lager they are comparing this to, the only products in the market lower than this are the non alcoholic beers, which contain trace amounts of alcohol.  Above this in the ABV stakes are 2 bands of products, the first being Carling, Fosters, Beck Vier etc which all sit around the 4% ABV point, then you have the premium lagers like Stella, 1664, Becks, Bud and the majority of European lagers which hover around the 5% mark.

Technically this new beer is “mid” as it sits in the middle of the 0% and 4-5% beers, but they are making very liberal use of the term to up the perception of their new shandy.   If you were to base it on market size, 5% would be the top band, 4% would classify as “mid” and these 2% and lower lagers would drop into the “low” category.   This would be the logical split in most drinkers perception.

However this liberalisation of the facts is nothing to be surprised at from the world of marketing, just look at Molson Coors with Animee, their “beer for ladies”. They invent sectors that don’t existing hoping they will become real, twist statistics to suit their means and quite frankly make the “beef lasagne” claims that Findus show on the boxes look quite plausible with some of their statements.  At least if it was found that Fosters had been found to contain horse products, it might be a slightly interesting beer.

I can see them aiming this at the driving drinker, claiming they can have 4 pints of this instead of 2 pints of beer, but people do this anyway without Fosters help, having a pint and a couple of shandies.  Personally I have no problem dropping to Lime and Lemonade once I hit my two pint limit when driving, I’d rather have those 2 good beers than no good beer at all.

The big question is will this drink become a success, it should be noted they are doing the now traditional route of trying it in the “off sales” market before bringing it into the pubs and bars of the UK.  My prediction will be that it will make it into pubs within about 6 months, but will drop to standard pricing from the current premium point.  It won’t be as much of a failure as Animee was, but do expect it to be appearing at discount basket near you within 18 months.

Until next week, happy supping, but hopefully not Fosters Radler.

  1. Gareth says:

    Calling it a mid-strength beer might be a legal thing. They couldn’t call it low-alcohol because, legally, it’s actually too strong (it would have to be below 1.3% if I remember rightly). As you point out it seems a bit odd from a consumer’s point of view. I don’t know why the marketing people feel the need to refer to its alcohol at all, but I don’t understand the point of the stuff in the first place so hey ho!

    • santobugtio says:

      Didn’t think of the legal standpoint, so probably the reason. They are calling this the “moderation” market in their press release, a term I don’t particularly like, as moderation is fewer pints of better beer also.

  2. Curmudgeon says:

    Calling such stuff “mid-strength” is utter nonsense. Couldn’t it just be called “lower strength”?

    The whole thing just sounds like a marketing men’s fantasy after a heavy coke session.

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