This Editor’s Page appeared in the February issue of Australian Bartender
By David Spanton
Another iconic Aussie company gets taken over…
Throw another shrimp on the barbie! Yes that hugely successful 80s TV commercial, made famous by big time bogan Paul Hogan, conjures up the image of a bunch of Aussie blokes and sheilas drinking Foster’s and wielding tongs on a hot summer’s day. The reason I bring it up is that Fosters is as much of an internationally recognisable icon as ‘The Hoges’ is and the Fosters portfolio of beer brands has a long and successful history that dates back to 1832 when the Cascade Brewery was founded in Tasmania. In 1854 their premier beer, VB, was first brewed in Victoria and not long after flagship beer Foster’s (that no Aussies actually drink, mind you) was first brewed by two yanks in 1888.
Fosters has been in the news a bit lately and not for positive reasons. It is upsetting to see yet another historic Australian-owned liquor company gobbled up by an international brewery in a hostile takeover. I just think it’s a travesty that poor management by Foster’s has lead to us losing control of yet another iconic Australian company.
The reality is that for the past decade at least they have been a company not knowing if they were coming or going with catastrophic investments into wine and multi-platform selling into venues plus their complete failure to make any in-roads into the fast growing craft beer segment. Let’s not forget Fosters trying to compete with the experienced spirit suppliers too, which didn’t seem to go anywhere unless you liked the idea of bottom of the barrel brands in your bar.
Add to the fact that in 10 plus years Bartender magazine has never worked with any brands from Fosters tells me that there was little interest in seriously connecting with, and educating, their biggest sales force – Australian bartenders. All of this screams to me ‘too big and no idea’ and unfortunately they, and Australia, have paid the price for their poor management.
“The reality is that for the past decade at least they have been a company not knowing if they were coming or going with catastrophic investments into wine and multi-platform selling into venues plus their complete failure to make any in-roads into the fast growing craft beer segment.” David Spanton
You see Australians take their beer seriously and while I’m sure most of the Foster’s brands will stay in the market and not much will change, we also like the idea that something is owned by Australians and when the profits stay in the country. When something with so much history and connection to Australian culture loses it way and gets taken over I, like many Australians, see that as a real shame even though I’m sure new owner SAB Miller (the worlds second largest Brewery after InterBev) will do a much better job running the business based on their success around the world.
It’s worth highlighting that South Australia’s Coopers Brewery can now lay claim to being Australia’s largest ‘Australian made & owned’ brewer even if they were less than 1/10 of the size of Foster’s before it was sold. That being said Coopers makes great beers and after Lion Nathan’s recent failed hostel takeover I’m told they have infrastructure in place that makes them virtually impervious to other takeover bids.
That is unless your Rupert Murdoch who I’m sure could find and a way to still get it!