Supermarket own-label launches encourage consumer experimentation

Like the market in general, own-label premium bottled ales are getting more upmarket and diverse.

Increasing numbers of supermarkets are teaming up with brewers to develop high-end own-brand offerings that shout about the brewery's heritage as well as carrying the shop's brand - and most of them have premium price-tags.

Own-label makes up around 2.4 per cent of the market in 50cl bottled ales, according to Nielsen, and grew sales 8 per cent in the year to July 14 2007.

Greene King take-home director Neil Jardine says: "Some of the offerings that have been around historically have been hitting more of the value end, and currently I think some of the retailers are taking very much the opposite approach and going to the super-premium end of it to create a point of difference ."

With PBAs commanding premium prices, stores don't need to create own-labels to boost margins - instead they are doing it to increase choice in an already diverse market, which gives the ales an even more premium image.

That said, some of the leading premium bottled ale brands - 20 of which command 61 per cent of the market, according to Sheila Carroll of Marstons - feel squeezed by the increasing diversity in the market.

Wells & Young's marketing director Chris Lewis says: "From our point of view, we are a leading brewer of speciality beer, and own-label brands just can't compete with the beer crafted by our master brewers. To date, own-label brands haven't had a significant impact on category sales."

None of the brands feel own-label is a threat - but many, even if they are not interested in brewing own-labels themselves, realise it could be an opportunity.

Sudarghara Dusanj of Cains says: "The fact that supermarkets are investing in own-label PBAs is good. It shows

the category is strong and encourages consumer trial."

Who makes own-label premium bottled ales?

Booths Daleside Porter, IPA, Bitter and Anniversary Ale - Daleside Brewery, Harrogate

Co-op Truly Irresistible Gold Miner Ale, Bumble Bee Honey Ale, Organic Fairtrade Ale - Freeminer Brewery


The Best - Freeminer Brewery

Sainsbury's So Organic Ale - Refresh UK

Tesco Finest Golden Sheep Ale

- Black Sheep Brewery