Sales of packaged beer were down five per cent in the 2023 financial year, which family-owned Coopers attributed to a “tough retail market”.
A return to pubs and licenced venues by punters across Australia drove 26 per cent growth in volumes of kegs sold over the 12-month period, contributing to a more than $1 million increase in the company’s profit-before-tax.
It follows a slump in keg sales recorded in FY21, which was offset by record can sales post-COVID.
Revenue also rose by 5.9 per cent to $287 million, which Coopers said was “aided by the introduction of a new contract packaging arrangement”.
The company added that higher malted barley sales and the recovery of tap beer underpinned its “solid financial year result…in otherwise challenging trading conditions for the industry”.
Though keg sales were up by more than a quarter, they remain down 14 per cent on pre-COVID levels of the 2019 financial year.
Total beer sales – excluding non-alcoholic beers – hit 77.6 million litres. This represented a 2.3 per cent fall on FY22 levels of 79.4 million litres.
“The national beer market remains subdued, impacting sales volumes across the country,” Coopers managing director Dr Tim Cooper said.
“However, Coopers outperformed the national market in the latter half of the financial year, holding steady while overall industry volumes started to fall from April.
“A highlight has been the return of patronage to hospitality venues following the industry lows experienced during the pandemic shutdowns. It has been great to see people back in pubs. Our keg sales reflected this trend and were approaching pre-COVID levels at the end of the financial year. However, they are now slightly under pressure due to the cost-of-living crisis.”
The popularity of cans is another trend highlighted by Coopers, which said cans now represent 37 per cent of total packaged beer sales. However, the managing director told InDaily the rise came off “a low base”.
“We’re now probably matching the general market,” he said.
Malted barley sales tonnage also rose by 12.6 per cent, with exports to food and beverage manufactures in Asia up by 26 per cent.
Homebrew sales were down “despite cost-of-living pressures which would traditionally fuel higher demand for DIY brewing” according to Coopers.
“There is no doubt the beer market in Australia faces challenges brought on by increasing cost-of-living pressures, market concentration and excessive taxation on beer,” Dr Cooper said.
“Amongst this backdrop, we at Coopers maintain our focus on brewing excellence and providing real value-for-money across all our products. Our consumer research continues to highlight the move towards authentic brands that can be trusted, are high-quality and affordable.
“We are entering the important summer period with optimism and a positive outlook. During the year, we completed our first major update to our core packaging in 20 years, and we are pleased to be offering an enhanced product portfolio to the market.”
Coopers said its latest release – Australian Larger – “performed strongly” after hitting shelves in August.
It described the new option as “the brewery’s flagship larger offering in Australia’s largest beer style category”.
Coopers also said its new visitor centre, microbrewery and whisky distillery at Regency Park was “taking shape” ahead of its expected opening next year. The plant and equipment have been made in England and Scotland and are expected to arrive “in coming weeks”.
“This is a significant and very exciting undertaking for Coopers. We’re pleased with the progress to-date and look forward to welcoming visitors from across Australia and overseas once it’s completed,” Dr Cooper said.
The managing director also welcomed predictions of a hot summer for Australia and said heat would drive extra beer sales.
“Heat always helps,” he said.
“We are being promised heat this year with El Niño. Some writers will talk about the calamity of climate change, but it will nonetheless be very good for the beer industry.”
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