Wednesday 19 September 2018

Sun shining on C&C as Bulmers sees growth

Bulmers cider
Bulmers cider
Gavin McLoughlin

Gavin McLoughlin

The recent good weather has helped Bulmers sales get back into growth after intense competition from Heineken exerted downward pressure.

C&C boss Stephen Glancey told shareholders at the company's AGM yesterday that the company had boosted investment in the cider last year and the sunshine was seeing it reap the rewards.

"The sun has been shining since Paddy's Day and so we're back in moderate growth this year which is good news for the brand."

The company is going through something of a transition period after acquiring a large minority stake in UK pub chain Admiral Taverns, and then the UK-based drinks wholesaler Matthew Clark Bibendum.

Both deals should help the company increase its footprint in the UK market which is more important than Ireland for C&C's business. The Matthew Clark Bibendum business needs to be stabilised having been acquired on foot of the collapse of previous parent Conviviality.

That saw C&C take on higher levels of debt and Mr Glancey said yesterday that his focus will be on getting the company's debt levels down.

The company has also been investing in a number of craft products including taking 100pc ownership of Dublin-based Five Lamps lager.

Mr Glancey said it was important for the company to cater to younger consumers' tastes.

"The millennial consumer doesn't always necessarily associate themselves with the big brands," he said.

"It's important that we keep our brands relevant for those consumers but equally they like speciality niche products, they like world products, and they like artisan products that are made locally.

"Over the last few years quietly C&C has been going in the right direction with a number of products that fit the taste profile and desires of millennial consumers."

He said the company had received a number of expressions of interest from companies looking to have C&C carry out work on their behalf.

These came from wine businesses looking for packaging capability for getting into Europe from places like Australia or South America.

"A lot of that might have been handled in the UK previously and now they're looking for a European position in Ireland that's decent for them," Mr Glancey said.

It has also received enquiries from brewers looking to make contingency plans on foot of Brexit.

Mr Glancey said companies were considering having C&C carry out manufacturing on their behalf in the event that a hard border meant it was better to manufacture product in Ireland.

Shareholders were told that the market in Scotland - where C&C sells market-leading lager Tennent's - was "ex growth".

"People aren't drinking a lot more in Scotland, as they're not drinking more in Ireland.

"But within that we think we can get value growth and growth through speciality and wine and spirits," Mr Glancey said.

Yesterday also saw the retirement of Brian Stewart as C&C's chairman. He has been replaced by Stewart Gilliland - a director at C&C for a number of years.

Mr Stewart and Mr Glancey previously worked together at British brewer Scottish & Newcastle, which was eventually sold with Carlsberg and Heineken each taking chunks of the company.

Irish Independent

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