Bulmer's shows the way not to go

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Alcoholic beverage, Film director

Miles Templeman will reflect wryly on the latest Stella Artois ad, currently being filmed by a name Hollywood film director at the piffling cost of...

Miles Templeman will reflect wryly on the latest Stella Artois ad, currently being filmed by a name Hollywood film director at the piffling cost of £750,000. It was, of course, the ex-Whitbread Beer Company boss who took Stella to its current heights, thanks to an irresistible marketing combination of wit and wealth. In his current position, that kind of spend is way beyond Bulmer's purse. And however witty and appealing Strongbow's marketing proposition, unless it is backed by multi-million pound spends, it will never achieve the mass popularity that makes it a must-have in every pub. By getting Strongbow into the Top 10 Long Alcoholic Drinks league, Bulmers clearly almost got there. But, as has now become clear, it paid a heavy price to do so. Bulmer's overseas follies may have been fingered as the main contributor to the 116-year-old firm's current meltdown. But the savage discounting it was prepared to offer retailers to be on bars looks to have been equally disastrous. Reports of Strongbow at £49 a barrel may be apocryphal, but are not far of the mark. And for a supplier to be prepared to sacrifice margin to that extent in order to keep sales up is clear proof that both sides to the deal are negotiating over something that has become a commodity rather than a valued brand. However good cider can be ­ and you only have to sample some Addlestone's to become an instant convert ­ the harsh truth is that pubs don't feel they're going to lose money if they don't have a decent cider offer. In a tough trading environment as we currently have, that sends the cider boys naked into the negotiating chamber. ScotCo's admission this week that despite wholesale price rises of 10% in the past six months, it will not increase beer profits this year, shows just how tough it is out there. With discouting the order of the day on the high street, and likely to remain so according to Ian Payne for the next two years, all suppliers can do is invest even more heavily in advertising to ensure their products are the ones customers insist on. Only then can they stop retailers screwing them totally into the ground. It is clearly too much to expect retailers to stop and reflect on the harm they may be doing their suppliers ­ and how, ultimately, if there are fewer exciting brands for customers to seek out, the retailers will themselves suffer long-term harm. Isn't it?

Related topics: Cider

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