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Carlsberg UK Despite the success of Castlemaine XXXX, Chris Phillips, customer development director for Carlsberg UK (from last week, the new name...

Carlsberg UK Despite the success of Castlemaine XXXX, Chris Phillips, customer development director for Carlsberg UK (from last week, the new name for Carlsberg-Tetley), does not believe the decision to sell the brand to Interbrew meant throwing the baby out with the bath water. "There are three big lager brands ­ Carlsberg, Carling and Foster's. These, with Stella, will probably forge ahead of the rest," Phillips says. "The jury is still out on XXXX but it is a long way behind the other three. It's hard to see if it would break through and be a serious contender ­ but it is early days." Carlsberg UK can take comfort in a solid year's performance for Carlsberg and Carlsberg Export, following the £14m Carlsberg re-launch, with new fonts, last year. Sales of Carlsberg were up 25% for the year to November 2003 ­ it now accounts for around 19% of the standard lager category ­ while Export sales also grew 8%. Phillips says sales were driven by good distribution, particularly in the Greene King and Wolverhampton & Dudley estates. Overall, an extra 4,000 outlets stocked Carlsberg in the past year. Sales benefited from the demise of Heineken Cold Filtered, Phillips believes ­ and the scorching summer. "It was a very good summer for standard lager," he says. "People really wanted to drink lager but in the hot weather they would cut back on the premiums. They would drink greater volumes in the heat and standard lager suited this." Carlsberg is a brand that relishes its close link with football, and 2003 was no exception, despite the fact there were no major tournaments. "We had a year of sport where there were no big football occasions, unlike in 2002. But we managed to build progress around the FA Cup and England international matches, so we had a solid performance," says Phillips. He says a tournament the size of Euro 2004 can be "a double-edged sword". "It will be massive but sales are likely to fall away quickly. We've got to get in there quickly." Carlsberg sales were up in areas where football activity is strongest, most notably in the north-west. Carlsberg UK continued its sponsorship of Liverpool Football Club, and Phillips hopes that this will continue if the club secures a place in the UEFA Champions League. "It's not just Liverpool, it's in other grass roots clubs that we are making an impact," Phillips adds. "To an individual pub it is much more relevant to have visits from the players or being able to win some merchandise. That even applies to the minor leagues." The past year has seen Carlsberg UK roll out its vortex dispense system, launched in August 2002, that cuts pouring time by a third to 14 seconds and gives a thicker head to the pint. The technology seems to be working, as Carlsberg UK says outlets that have it have seen a 10% increase in sales. "We've had a lot of positive feedback," Phillips says. "It is very much the direction the individual licensee wants to go to operate faster dispense systems. It is also part of the development of the brand with the new font." Looking to the future, Phillips is hopeful that Carlsberg UK's proposal to hand over responsibility for cellar management (in a joint venture with ScotCo) to a new business, Serviced Dispense Equipment, will mean faster and more efficient cellar service for licensees. The decision is still awaiting approval from the Office of Fair Trading. Meanwhile, Phillips is optimistic that standards of service in pubs are on the up. "[Standards] are improving and there are improvements that can come through. We work through quality programmes and award schemes with major customers. "We are also training people on the use of branded glasses and making sure they are served properly and cleanly. "The experience has got to be worth the customer coming back for.

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