Since 2005 in the UK, and 2008 in Ireland, Asahi UK has been marketing and distributing its unique Super Premium Beer portfolio. Through its distribution discipline, supplemented by engaging and innovative marketing activities, Asahi UK is bringing value back into the beer category.

Steve Young, Director Off-Trade sales at Asahi UK, spoke to Wholesale Manager.

What does your role involve as director of off-trade for Asahi UK? Do you go to visit wholesale customers? What do you think of the state of the cash & carry sector’s beer aisles?

Day to day, I oversee the Off-Trade sales team, and ensure that we are meeting our objectives. We are continuously acquiring new customers as well as ensuring our current customers have everything they need, and are happy and comfortable with the Asahi brands they stock. Something we are really hot on is keeping in regular contact with all of our customers, including wholesalers, making sure they are aware of the benefits of stocking our brands and how to use these to maximise sales.

How has consumers’ take-home beer and cider consumption changed in recent years? Are they still buying a large proportion from independent retailers?

One of the trends that we have seen really grow in recent years, is consumers opting for nights in, and when they do so, are increasingly going to Independents for their food and drink. Total beer sales within the Off-Trade market have grown by 5% over the last two years, going from 6.9% to 7.4%1. Independents are an important part of this growth, and in my opinion, this is set continue as we move into 2020.

How are you set up as a business to work with the cash & carries and delivered wholesalers (our readership)?

Our team conducts extensive research into the market, and we ensure that when we speak to our Off-Trade customers, they are aware of these trends, and know how best to utilise our brands to capitalise. Working hard to form our dedicated Off-Trade sales team, means that we are perfectly positioned to support our customers. This includes cash and carries and wholesales, who know that they have a team of highly knowledgeable and passionate experts who they can call on for advice and to answer any questions they might have.

Was Asahi UK involved in any 2019 Rugby World Cup-themed activity in wholesale in the UK?

No we weren’t, as we were not an official sponsor of the tournament.

What’s your point of difference versus the likes of AB Inbev (Budweiser Brewing Group), HEINEKEN and Molson Coors? What do you offer your independent retail trade customers that the others don’t give them?

We don’t look to comment on other businesses, we prefer to focus on ourselves and what we can deliver for our customers. At Asahi UK we are committed to working with retailers and wholesalers up and down the country to help them make the most of the beer and cider categories. We are very proud of our portfolio and we believe that it offers wholesalers and cash and carry carries real value within premium and super-premium brands across all pack types.

How do you sum up your UK brand portfolio and how it all fits together? What Low and No Alcohol options do you have in your portfolio?

Asahi UK is dedicated to developing world leading brands and we pride ourselves on our super premium portfolio that includes quality beers and ciders from across the world.

As a business we have really gone from strength-to-strength over the past few years and this most recently culminated with the Fuller’s acquisition last year which has seen us take on top UK brands like London Pride, ESB and Frontier. Asahi UK is in the midst of a very exciting period and the emergence of new categories like low and no alcohol present fantastic opportunities for us. In January 2019, we broke into this market with Peroni Libera 0.0% which achieved a huge 63% Off-Trade distribution within six months of launching. We will be watching closely to see how this exciting market continues to develop over the next twelve months.

What effect do campaigns like ‘Drink Responsibly’ have on people’s drinking, in your opinion?

As an international beer business, we actively encourage responsible drinking at all times and are proud to support this messaging on pack across all our brands. Public health campaigns like ‘Drink Responsibly’ remain vital and as a responsible business we plan to continue working closely with officials on this in the months and years to come.

I fully understand how the different bottled beers in the Asahi portfolio make perfect sense in a pub, when you’re out for the evening or spending time with mates watching sport and enjoying some great beers from around the world. How does the width of your range transfer to independent retail, where people experiment less than in the pub, or at least I think they do?

The Off-Trade experience for consumers is always going to be different to the On-Trade in many ways. The sheer breadth of our portfolio and the wide variety of formats that we offer across our brands means that there is always a perfect beer or cider for every consumer and for every occasion. Time and time again, consumer research from the past few years has shown that consumers are increasingly opting for more premium beers with a rich brand heritage and this has been great news for our portfolio, with super premium brands which have continued to flourish in the independent retail sector. Peroni Nastro Azzurro has continued to be a top performing brand, and in April last year we launched the first ever 330ml Slim Line Can to tap into the growing premium canned drinks trend. It’s made from fully recyclable aluminium and its unique design has helped drive overall value and volume sales growth for Peroni Nastro Azzurro – 2019 marked its 15th year of continued growth!

What advice do Asahi give to wholesalers about how to boost their sales to independent retailers?

There are a variety of merchandising strategies that wholesalers should use in order to boost sales to independent retailers all year round. Wholesalers should also look to replicate effective store layouts that have been used by independent retailers in order to manage stock levels and inspire additional sales. In addition, with premium and craft options continuing to soar in popularity, wholesalers should be looking for opportunities to capitalise on their success as 2020 gets underway.

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