Asahi Group Holdings seeking to buy one or two more Australian craft beer or cider brands to increase production at its Melbourne facility, executive says

, November 20, 2013 () – JAPANESE brewing major Asahi is seeking to buy one or two more Australian craft beer or cider brands to boost production at its Melbourne brewery.

Greg Ellery, chief executive with local arm Asahi Premium Beverages, said the company wanted to leverage its $1.2 billion acquisition of the Independent Liquor business in 2011.

``Our goal in Australia is to become one of the leading multi-beverage suppliers, so we're looking for acquisitions that fit into our manufacturing and sales platforms,'' he said. ``We don't just want to buy things to get bigger, we want something that has a real consumer proposition.''

Mr Ellery cited last year's acquisition of the local licence for European cider brand Somersby, now the second bestselling brand in the market.

``There's no question we'll look at more acquisitions in the craft space -- there's a definite consumer move into drinking beer and cider products that are more out of the mainstream,'' he said.

``We have the capacity to make one or two bolt-on acquisitions in the next 12 months.''

In April the company bought Victorian craft beer brand Cricketers' Arms for an undisclosed sum, and it is relaunching the label to pubs and retailers across the country.

Mr Ellery said he would prefer to buy beer brands that did not come with their own brewery, as APB could turn out any product from its existing plant.

In the meantime, Mr Ellery said the company was working on integrating the Schweppes soft drink portfolio, which Asahi also owns, into its alcohol sales team to take advantage of its existing relationships with retailers and venues who also buy soft drinks and mixers.

APB manufactures and distributes the Vodka Cruiser and Woodstock Bourbon range of pre-mixed spirits, as well as several licensed brands such as Kingfisher beer. The company also manufactures liquor products under contract for supermarket retailers including Aldi, and imports and distributes Asahi's flagship Super Dry beer.

Mr Ellery said there were no plans to begin brewing Super Dry locally, with kegged beer currently shipped in from Japan and bottled beer from a number of plants in Asia, including Beijing.

``The Asahi you buy in a pub here now is the same as you'd drink in a bar in Tokyo, so you can't improve on that,'' he said.

Asahi is suing private equity groups PEP and Unitas Capital over claims they over-stated Independent Liquor's earnings in the sale process.

(c) 2013 News Limited

* All content is copyrighted by Industry Intelligence, or the original respective author or source. You may not recirculate, redistrubte or publish the analysis and presentation included in the service without Industry Intelligence's prior written consent. Please review our terms of use.