We had a classic proof earlier this year that Australian brewers don’t mind engaging in a little bit of deception. And the practice, it seems, is international among the big brewers.
In April the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission accepted a court enforceable undertaking from Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) in relation to ACCC concerns that it represented that Byron Bay Pale Lager was brewed by a small brewer in Byron Bay when this was not the case. CUB paid two Infringement Notices to the value of $20,400 in relation to this conduct.
Now media reports from the United States give details of how declining sales of mainstream brews sees roll out phony craft beers—brands like ShockTop and Blue Moon—and buy up legit craft brewers like Chicago’s Goose Island. Writes Mother Jones:
Other ersatz “craft” beers include Leinenkugel, Killian’s, Batch 19, and Third Shift. The strategy has been successful, to a point. Bloomberg reports that InBev has seen its Goose Island and Shock Top sales surge.
But there’s a catch: These stealth Big Beer brands aren’t “putting the microbrewers who started the movement out of business,” Bloomberg reports. Rather, “the new labels are taking sales from already-troubled mass-market brands owned by the industry giants peddling these crafty brews.” In other words, consumers aren’t dropping Sierra Nevada or Dogfish Head and reaching for the Shocktop. Rather, ShockTop sales are being propped up by refugees from Bud Light and the like.
Description on the back label
The Byron Bay Brewing Co is located on Skinner’s Shoot Road in Byron Bay. We’re housed in a historic location, a birthplace of much of the fame and spirit of Byron Bay which has attracted local and international musicians, artists and alternative thinkers since the ‘70s. Next time you’re in town, drop in and have a beer.
Brewed in NSW by the Byron Bay Brewing Company and its Licensees
The Australia experience, as explained by the ACCC, was that in 2013, CUB began supplying Byron Bay Pale Lager with labelling that incorporated the name Byron Bay Pale Lager, a pictorial representation of a lighthouse, text regarding Byron Bay and a map of the Byron Bay region showing the location of the Byron Bay Brewing Company. In fact, the beer was brewed by CUB at its brewery in Warnervale, some 630km away from Byron Bay.
The Byron Bay Brewing Company is a small brewery that, via its parent, licensed to CUB the right to supply Byron Bay Pale Lager Australia wide. The Byron Bay Brewing Company only brews Byron Bay Pale Lager for sale on tap at its site in Byron Bay.
“Many small brewers cater to consumers who prefer to support small, niche businesses. When large companies portray themselves as small businesses, it undermines the unique selling point that such small businesses depend upon, and it misleads consumers,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.
“The ACCC will be writing to other participants putting them on notice of this matter in order to ensure that marketing and labelling in the beer market appropriately reflects where and by whom beer is brewed.”
In providing the enforceable undertaking, CUB acknowledged that the labelling may have misled consumers. CUB has agreed to cease distribution of product with the misleading labelling. More generally, CUB has undertaken that it will not make false or misleading representations concerning the scale of the brewery in which its products are brewed or the place of origin of its products.
CUB will place corrective notices on its website and in trade publications, and it will also provide a corrective notice for retailers to display at point-of-sale.
“This is an outcome that protects the interests of both beer buyers and small brewers.” Mr Sims said.