The proliferation of premium drinks in the on-trade will play into the hands of breweries like Asahi UK and other alcohol suppliers in 2018 and the foreseeable future, Clay told The Morning Advertiser.
Clay officially became the head of Asahi UK this month, taking over from Gary Haigh who retired last year after overseeing the transfer of SAB Miller's Miller Brands Unit to Asahi in 2016.
Asahi acquired the Miller Brands portfolio, which consists of Peroni, St Stefanus, Pilsner Urquell, Kozel, Tyskie, Lech and Asahi among others.
Asahi bought out Miller Brands when SAB Miller was sold to global beer giant AB InBev in 2016.
Sixth in value share
The group’s premium beer portfolio currently accounts for roughly a sixth in value share of the premium beer market, said Clay.
The UK on-trade’s best-selling premium lager is Peroni Nastro Azzuro in both value and volume terms, according to The Morning Advertiser’s 2018 Drinks List: Top Brands To Stock.
In the 12 months to 12 August 2017, more than 735,000hl of Peroni were sold in the on-trade, according to CGA data.
Premium lagers, though not as large as the likes of Carling, Foster’s and Carlsberg, are among the top 10 best-selling lager brands.
“Compelling brands with the credentials that have authenticity will succeed in the future and if you tell the right story and produce the right brand then you can command a higher price in the marketplace,” added Clay.
Over the next three years, the brewer would focus on its premium portfolio – particularly Asahi and Peroni – in light of a decline in sales of mass-market beer.
Large slice of the beer market
Though standard lagers would still hold a large slice of the beer market, it was premium and craft that would continue to see growth in the future, he believed.
When asked whether the brewer would add to its portfolio through acquisition, Clay said: “There are no immediate plans to buy out beers or brewers.
“We hold about 15.3% value share of the premium lager category and we are in growth, according to CGA.”
A new three-year plan has just been set out by Asahi UK, which would see the business focus more on premium.
The Japanese parent company has also seen the value in Asahi UK’s focus and was allowing Clay and his team the autonomy to pursue the market, he added.