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Singleton red faced as SAB Miller Aussie subsidiary pulls Bluetongue

By Ben Bouckley+

23-Jan-2014

Bluetongue beers at the brewery bar (Picture: Dushan Hanuska/Flickr)
Bluetongue beers at the brewery bar (Picture: Dushan Hanuska/Flickr)

Australian entrepreneur John Singleton is reportedly furious that SAB Miller subsidiary Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) has chosen to axe its once successful Bluetongue beer brand.

CUB told 64 staff on Thursday that they would lose their jobs given plans to close its 100m liter capacity Warnervale brewery in New South Wales, only opened in 2010, by the end of 2014.

Before selling Bluetongue to the SAB Miller and Coca-Cola Amatil JV in December 2006, former advertising executive Singleton consolidated the beer’s success by gaining taps in circa. 400 pubs and listings in 5,700+ bottle shops.

Entrepreneur slams SAB’s ‘remarkable effort’

Singleton told the Sydney Morning Herald that he and his business partners built a brand bigger than Cascade within five years but that growth was hamstrung due to limited capacity.

Criticising the CUB move, he said: “Just to think, this mob has taken a brand that was a bigger seller than Cascade [also a CUB brand] to absolutely nothing in little over a year. A remarkable effort.”

Singleton also claims he approached SAB/CUB to buy back the brand but the firm wasn’t interested.

A SAB Miller spokesman said in a statement that the Warnervale brewery played a “vital role” in the company’s Pacific Beverages JV (with Coca-Cola Amatil) prior to its 2011 takeover of Foster’s.

‘We have excess capacity’ – SAB Miller

“In particular, it was key to the success of [international brands] Peroni Nastro Azzurro and Miller Genuine Draft, two of the fastest growing beers in Australia,” he added.

“Things have, however, changed significantly since the site was built. Warnervale is now part of the much larger and established national Carlton & United production grid and this has resulted in excess capacity, particularly as the overall beer market remains challenging,” the spokesman explained.

Bluetongue will therefore be “phased out and discontinued” over the coming months, SAB’s spokesman said, noting that the brand has declined in recent years “and the acquired CUB business also has a well-established set of core beer brands which will take priority”.

“We are therefore not in a position to continue to invest in the Bluetongue brand.”

(Above Picture: Sam Cavenagh/Flickr)