BEST JOB IN THE COUNTRY

Coopers Brewery recently celebrated its 150th year. The company’s national marketing director, Cam Pearce, talks to Real Estate Business about celebrations, milestones and the contracting beer market

CAM PEARCE says he has the best job in the country. He’s the national marketing director for Coopers Brewery.

His time with the company began in 2002 when he was appointed a non-executive director, taking the board position held by his father-in-law, Maxwell Cooper, who had retired as company chairman.

In September 2010, Mr Pearce joined the Coopers team full time as executive director, business development.

Despite being linked to the brand and the company through marriage, Mr Pearce’s passion goes beyond the obligatory family ties.

He says the company, brand and product range is second-to-none at Coopers. The company has a great reputation. There is plenty of opportunity for growth and development. He’s working with great people. The list goes on.

Yet it comes with its challenges.

The beer market has been contracting for the past few years, and the strong Australian dollar is causing downward pricing pressures.

“Consumers are spending less. People often think that beer is immune to downturns, but that’s simply not the case,” Mr Pearce tells Real Estate Business.

Australians still love a beer – and the premium market which many of Coopers’ products operate in is somewhat more resilient to downturns than other market segments – but people are consuming less.

According to Mr Pearce, instead of having multiple beverages on the weekend, people might have just one.

“It has been a difficult time for the market and we’ve done very well to buck the trend and grow at a time when it is declining.”

150 REASONS TO CELEBRATE
Last year, the Coopers brewery and brand turned 150 – a milestone which held significant marketing and sentimental value for what is now the largest Australian-owned brewery.

“It was a very important milestone and it was a great achievement – one that we wanted to celebrate with our customers and consumers,” Mr Pearce says.

Since SABMiller, a British brewery and beverage company, took over Foster’s at the end of 2011, Coopers has held the position of largest Australian-owned brewery.

“And of course we’re a family-owned brewery,” says Mr Pearce.

“So the shareholders are effectively family members. The differentiators of being a family-owned brewery and being Australian-owned and made are very strong and important points for the company.”

The company has also managed to grow, despite the problems facing the market. Coopers’ volume beer sales were up 2.4 per cent in 2012, in a market which has faced a four per cent decline.

“We’ve increased our volumes and we’ve had record sales of beer,” he says.“Coopers now sells over 64.3 million litres a year, which is a “great achievement in itself”.

In another coup for the company, Coopers Brewery recently secured the V8 Supercar sponsorship, which gives the company an opportunity to showcase its mid-strength beer, especially to customers on the eastern seaboard.

At the other end of the spectrum, Mr Pearce says the brewery is also the largest producer of DIY home brew.

To consolidate this position, the company recently purchased a stake in Mr Beer, the largest home brew distributor in the United States. “That’s another great achievement and milestone for us,” he says.

In October last year, the company cleaned up at the 19th Annual Liquor Industry Awards (ALIA).

Coopers won seven awards from 11 nominations and also garnered three high commendation mentions.

The wins prove that the company is receiving consistent praise and accolades.

The Coopers Pale Ale has now won the ALIA’s best tap beer for six years running and the award for full strength beer for five out of the six years.

According to Mr Pearce, the wins demonstrate that the company is connecting with consumers, as well as customers in the trade, and their proposition is resonating with beer drinkers and industry stakeholders.

“Given that we just won seven awards, I think we’re hopefully on the right track,” he says.

BOTTLE OF DIFFERENCE
Coopers’ beer bottles, and indeed their advertisements, have become more prominent in recent years.

In fact, at real estate industry social events, if Coopers is available, you can guarantee that some of the industry’s biggest names will have their fingers wrapped around one of the brand’s unique and distinctive bottles.

Yet with an expanding product portfolio, who is Coopers actually targeting, and are they reaching those they intend to?

“We’ve got a fairly broad portfolio of ale, stout and light beers,” says Mr Pearce.

“Our biggest seller is Coopers Original Pale Ale, which actually appeals to quite an extensive age group.

“In 2012 we also launched a new product, Celebration Ale, to celebrate 150 years of operation over six generations of Coopers’ family members.

“It is a flavoursome ale beer, which is proving very popular.”

Mr Pearce says the company’s wide range of products appeal to “just about every style of consumer”.

This year, the company aims to consolidate their gains and build on the marketing successes of their 150 Years celebrations.

Despite the market contraction, the beer industry remains hugely competitive.

“Australia has a very competitive beer market,” says Mr Pearce.

“We also have a very concentrated retail market with Coles and Woolworths being the main players in the retail area. So it’s competitive in both arenas.

“Consumers are looking for different beers and different experiences with their beers. It’s been one of the most competitive and difficult environments that we’ve had for many years.”

Mr Pearce, and the Coopers team of approximately 180 staff, are ready for the challenge though.

“The biggest challenge is to continue growing the business in a hard market.

“We do that by focusing on our customers and consumers, maintaining an absolute priority around product quality and continuing to connect with our customers and consumers to offer them a Coopers’ experience that makes them want to purchase our product.”

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