ACCC investigates beer giants for trying to muscle craft brews out of pubs

The ACCC is conducting an inquiry into the wholesale beer market amid accusations that brewing giants are “locking” craft brewers out of venues by use of exclusive and unfair contracts, according to consumer advocacy group Choice.

 

An ACCC spokesperson confirmed the inquiry is currently underway:

“The ACCC is continuing its market enquiries to better understand aspects of the supply conditions within the wholesale beer market(s).”

Choice has published details of an exclusive access contract for tap beer between a venue and SABMiller-owned Foster’s Group that includes the terms:

  • Foster’s will be the exclusive supplier of all Light Strength (<3%ABV) Draught Beer,
  • Foster’s will be the exclusive supplier of all Low Carbohydrate Draught Beers,
  • Foster’s will be the exclusive supplier of all Domestic Premium and Sub-Premium Draught Beers;
  • Foster’s will be the exclusive supplier of all Imported Draught Beers,
  • Foster’s will be the exclusive supplier of all Specialty & Craft Draught Beers, and
  • Foster’s will be the exclusive supplier of all Draught Spirits & Cider.

 

Choice head of media Tom Godfrey says exclusive dealing that cuts competitors, forecloses markets and keeps competitors out may be unlawful.

“It’s not uncommon for the big brewers to offer more money, rebates or other incentives for exclusive access to 80% or even 100% of pub taps, making it hard for independent brewers to get a fair go.”

Kirin and SABMiller are pulling 83% of Australia’s beer revenue and control 47% of the craft beer market due to acquisition of many successful, formerly boutique brands – including Little Creatures and James Squire (Kirin); and Matilda Bay brews including Fat Yak and Dirty Granny cider (SABMiller).

“These big global beer barons know there’s a price premium on claiming to be craft brews and it’s now clear their ‘craft washing’ strategy extends to exclusive dealing which sees genuine Australian craft beers locked out of the market,” Godfrey says.

Jeremy Griffith, of Carlton and United Breweries (on behalf of Foster’s Group), says the company cannot comment on the ACCC inquiry but released the following statement:

“It is not unusual for publicans to enter into contracts for the provision of beer, spirits and wine, and it is a long standing practice. Overall, around 70% of our on-premise customers (pubs and clubs) do not have contracts, so overwhelmingly it’s an open market. In regards to beer, many of these contracts provide discounts on the keg price, as well as investment in the pub such as cool rooms, tap lines and fridges etc.”

 

Lion told Choice that it has cooperated fully with the ACCC inquiry but declined to comment further.

 

Michelle Herbison
BY Michelle Herbison ON 12 February 2015
Assistant editor, Marketing Magazine.