Guinness said today it plans to release two new beers in mid-September, Guinness Dublin Porter (3.8% ABV) and Guinness West Indies Porter (6.0% ABV), inspired by recipes from 1796 and 1801.
Both drinks will be sold in 500ml glass bottles in selected pubs and grocery stores from £2.20 ($3.60), and Diageo says the Dublin Porter has malt and dark caramel notes and the West Indies Porter notes of toffee and chocolate.
The company claims initial trial feedback has been really positive, with Dublin Porter described as an accessible alternative to heavier dark beers and new Guinness drinking occasions.
The brand said trials showed that Guinness West Indies Porter had real depth in flavor and could attract those keen to try out the porter/stout space.
The drinks are formulated using recipe ideas taken from centuries-old brewer’s diaries, and are the first release from Diageo’s ‘Brewer’s Project’ at St James’s Gate brewery in Dublin, which allows brewers license to develop new recipes and reinterpret traditional ones.
Consumers want 'new taste experiences grounded in provenance': Diageo
A Diageo spokesperson told BeverageDaily.com that the craft beer revolution meant consumers were more interested in provenance and back story, "and this plays really well into the iconic history and heritage of Guinness".
"It also enables us to push the boundaries and we’re really excited about the innovations we recently launched: Guinness Dublin Porter, Guinness West Indies Porter and Guinness Blonde. These are all innovations based on recipes that we found in our Diageo archives," they added.
"Insight shows that consumers are seeking new taste experiences grounded in provenance, and are increasingly interested in the craft that goes into creating the products they consume. The rise in interest of Premium Bottled Ales (PBA) demonstrates this," Diageo's spokesperson said.
"The aim with these new products is to target new consumers, in much the same way that “craft” stout has ignited the category in the USA. The Brewer’s beers will attract consumers who are looking to experiment with new beers and seeking new taste experiences grounded in provenance."
Guinness: Innovation forefront or funk?
Guinness marketing director for Western Europe, Stephen O’Kelly insisted that the new releases show that the brand is at the “forefront of innovation” as consumer tastes change.
And if ever a brand needed new ideas, Guinness does. US sales fell 7% in the year to June 30 – mainly due to misfiring innovation Black Lager – and CEO Ivan Menezes complained of weaker brand equity for the brew in Western Europe, even suggesting the drink had been priced too highly on a global level in recent years.
Menezes insisted that the brand had to “underpin its premium credentials and recruit the next generation of Guinness consumers”, while Diageo is also positioning the brand more consistently on a global level to aid marketplace execution.
Despite O’Kelly’s innovation claim, Mintel global drinks analyst Jonny Forsyth feels the brand needs to take more risks, although he said he liked the look of the new launch packaging.
“In my opinion the brand has become a bit of an anachronism. It neither falls into the desire for premium/craft beer - as while it is positioned as premium it is not considered massively so by beer drinkers,” he told BeverageDaily.com.
Secondly, Forsyth said, Guinness doesn't suit the trend towards fruity/refreshing beer styles.
“I think many people don't really know what to make of it. Meanwhile, women who are coming into the beer category on the back of sweeter flavors and lighter, less filling beers are completely miffed,” he added.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF GUINNESS? A UK PERSPECTIVE: "Drink it fairly regularly. Love the taste. Far fewer calories than lager, although people seem to have trouble believing that. I think it probably seems old-fashioned to some, but I'm not concerned. Give me Guinness over some awful BrewDog pale ale any day." (Hugo Dragonetti, London, 31)
So who is the average UK Guinness drinker? The drink doesn’t seem to appeal to trendsetting hipster millennials in trendy London boroughs, a breed one surmises the brand might like to reach.
Forsyth tells us that the brand is highly reliant on 18-34 year-old London men – since the city’s affluence means Londoners can afford to visit pubs/bars more often.
“Guinness is hugely reliant on the on-trade. But you're right, this is no Shoreditch hipster brew,” he says.
Guinness with food? So heavy this seems like a hard sell...
Turning to the new launches, we asked Forsyth if Guinness was gunning for the food accompaniment route with the new drinks, but he expressed skepticism.
“A few players have tried this, but it doesn't really work. Firstly, I am not convinced beer matches food very well, and secondly I don't think consumers buy this angle,” he said.
“Throw in the fact that Guinness is so heavy and it seems a hard sell. In my opinion this is a very niche opportunity,” Forsyth added.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF GUINNESS? AN ASIA PERSPECTIVE: "It's very fashionable over here in Malaysia, where they have a brewery. They have been heavily promoting a new, funky bottle for women and hipsters too. I don't drink it as I don't think it copes well with the climate once it's been poured, but that doesn't put off drinkers who haven't tried the real Irish stuff." (Richard Whitehead, 40, Kuala Lumpur, Editor, FoodNavigator-Asia.com)
The Mintel analyst thinks Diageo need to get a “lot more radical” in its innovation after sequential yearly declines for the brand, “and the time has come to take more risks”.
“I would create a series of craft-style, limited edition brand extensions on the one hand, think single-batch, Irish whiskey-aged Guinness, etc., on the other hand,” Forsyth said.
“Then on the other, I would introduce some dark flavoured variants (i.e. blackcurrent, dark berries) to broaden its mainstream appeal,” he added.
Forsyth said he would also alter the Guinness marketing plan “to focus on demystifying the off-putting and (to millennials) foreboding darkness of the product”.
The brand could talk about how its black color comes from toasting some of the barley, and focus on its craftsmanship and Irish heritage, Fosyth added, “rather than coming up with abstract, trendy adverts [you can watch the brand's 2014 effort, Sapeurs, above]".