Coopers Brewery: Coles and Woolies would destroy our brand

By By Reid Jermyn | 7 September 2011

EXCLUSIVE: Woolworths has made no apology for its ongoing price war with Coles, after Coopers Brewery boss Glenn Cooper flayed the pair for being the "killers of Aussie brands".

When asked about the future of small brands, Mr Cooper said he had “no confidence” as long as the two were locked in the ensuing price war.

The brewery boss slammed the supermarkets for attempting to gain  “monopoly control” of the food, petrol and liquor industries and said they undermined established brands with private label food and beverage lines.

“I think it’s an unhealthy position to be in,” Cooper said of small brand’s futures.

“Blatantly, Coles and Woolworths are not brand builders, they are brand destroyers … it’s harsh, but they are not about building brands, they are just about turning (it) over quickly.”

While Coles failed to return calls from AdNews, Woolworths staunchly rejected the claims and defended its right to introduce private label brands into the market.

A Woolworths spokeswoman told AdNews giving shoppers cheaper alternatives had afforded the small to medium suppliers a chance to grow their business.

“Additionally, Woolworths also supports many brands (like Coopers) with advertising and promotions,” the spokeswoman said.

But Coopers isn’t the only established brand fighting the influx of private label products. Globally, Heinz has reinforced its brand equity by playing on heritage and familiarity with consumers, and underpinning it with simple innovations like sauce bottles that can balance on their heads.

While Coopers hasn’t had to resort to that, the GM did say it was part of the reason behind the brand’s expansion into the social media market.

Coopers lead several social media campaigns in the last year, including one for the launch of its Coopers Clear range, which gave away a set of diamonds in each state. The brand’s foray into social media has directed more 19,500 fans to its Facebook page while the website has had 540,000 visits since January 10.

Similarly, the brand’s Order of Coopers home brewing initiative is now driven by 20,000 members from 160 countries.

But around 30% of Coopers’ annual sales are still driven by the two supermarket chains. Cooper said he “feared” supermarket sales reaching 50%.

“We stand pretty firm because we are very proud of our brand.

“Could you imagine if we gave (them) carte blanche over our product? They would destroy that brand, probably over night if not within a year’s time, because they would pull down through the floor and that would be it.”

Coopers account for 3.5% of Australian beer sales. Woolworths claims private beer labels made up less than 5% of its total beer category and that year-on-year, Coopers sales continues to grow an average of 2%.

“Coopers sales are performing well in Woolworths stores … additionally, we make no apology for trying to get good value for our customers,” the spokeswoman said.

Coopers Brewery spent and estimated $4.3 million on main media in the 12 months to May 2011. That figure was up from $3.8 million for the previous year.

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