Castlemaine threat from range scrutiny

Inbev puts entire portfolio under the microscope

Inbev UK's new boss has launched a review of its entire portfolio - casting particular doubt over Castlemaine XXXX - as he attempts to weed out duplications and sizes up the opportunity to introduce different brands.

Three months into the


president Stuart MacFarlane has put the brewer's range under the microscope, with the exception of market-leading Stella Artois and relative newcomer Beck's Vier, which he sees as the linchpins of its line-up.

The review places a question mark over the long-term future of Castlemaine XXXX, which it has brewed under licence from Lion Nathan since 2002.

Since introducing the 3.7% abv lager to the UK with a £9 million support package, the company has

exploited the trend for lower abv premium beers with the roll-out of two at 4% abv - Beck's Vier and Peeterman Artois - both of which it owns outright.

At the same time, sales of the Australian lager have been on the slide

and were down a staggering 40% last year

to £25.3 million, while Beck's grew 1%

to £69 million (Nielsen year to Jan

26 2008).

MacFarlane said: "We are reviewing the role of all the brands in the portfolio and how they fit together based on the entire range.

"It's not just a one-brand review, although we are currently in discussions with Lion Nathan about Castlemaine XXXX's future. It's a question of where it fits in relation to Peeterman."

He emphasised that Boddingtons and Bass, widely considered to be out of place in Inbev's lager-driven portfolio, would remain a "core part of the business".

However, he added that any reductions could make room for some new additions, particularly in the speciality beer market, including a number of Leffe and Hoegaarden variants not yet available in the UK.