segunda-feira, 11 de março de 2013

Madame Artois

"[...] Stella was the one with the reputation for quality and worth in the UK which the others could only dream of. Because of its consistency, if was seen as the most genuine brand, exactly what new premium draught lager drinker was looking for." [page 327.]

"At the dawn of the new millennium Stella was in double digit growth and was having its cake, eating it, and keeping the money it bought the cake with into the bargain. It was seen as a discerning, individualistic choice by millions of drinker, each of whom thought they were being classier than the other millions around them who were drinking exactly the same thing. It walked a brilliant tightrope between ubiquity and specialness. And then it fell off, headfirst, into a particularly deep and smelly pool of ubiquity.

"The bran's owners, Interbrew, went on a global buying spree and became Inbev, a massive brewing conglomerate that was desperate for cash and thought this would be an excellent time to star cutting costs on the brand. The recipe was cut with maize, a cheaper grain than barley, which produces less flavour, and what had once been seen as a challenging, full-flavoured beer became strong, but bland. By 2008, this 'quality' lager had either watered down or completely thrown out every single one of the product or the process points discussed in a beautifully written 1980s press ad about what made it so special. The ABV was reduced. The beautiful embossed can was replaced by a bog-standard can. The supermarket bottle quietly shrunk in size. And the supermarket price war became frenzied. Inbev would later protest that other brands were price cutting way more than Stella did, which was true - but not one of those other brands had built their popularity on the back of a long-running 'Reassuringly Expensive' message.

"Stella's higher alcohol strength, coupled with its ubiquity, started to earn it the unpleasant nickname 'wifebeater', and it became seen as the drink of choice by people who wearing as much Burberry tartan as possible was a really good idea. Double-digit growth promptly flipped into equally dizzying decline. New variants were launched and quickly withdrawn. The advertising stopped being subtle and rewarding in favour of simple and browbeating. In a final attempt to shake Stella's headbanging image, Inbev launched a 4 per cent version - a curious move given that they had also just  launched a 4 per cent version of Becks [which by now had, bizarrely, more flavour than the full 5 per cent Stella] and used the success of the lower strength version to mask the continuing decline of its once-great parent. At the time of writing, Stella's owners have announced brewery closures and swingeing job cuts, claiming no one is drinking beer any more.

"Stella is still market leader in premium lager, but where lager itself had once seemed cool and stylish, it increasingly became dull, bland and commoditised." [page 340, BROWN, Pete, Man walks into a pub, Essex: Pan Books, 2004]

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