A subsidiary of Japanese company Kirin, Lion (previously Lion Nathan National Foods) is now the smaller of Australia's two dominant brewers. Its portfolio includes three of the country's top five beers - XXXX, Toohey's and Hahn Super Dry - as well as New Zealand's market-leading Speight's and Steinlager and craft beers including James Squire and Little Creatures. Until late 2016, Lion was also the local licensee for Corona, Stella Artois and other ABInBev beers in both countries, but that arrangement ended following the larger group's acquisition of main rival Carlton United Brewers. As a result, Lion's Australian market share slipped to around 42% for 2017, compared to around 45% for CUB. (Lion still distributes AB InBev's international brands in NZ, and now manages Heineken, Guinness and Moretti in Australia). A 13-year joint venture to distribute Bacardi's brands in Australia was also terminated in 2016, and Lion sold its wine division Fine Wine Partners, with brands including Petaluma and Wither Hills, to Accolade Wines later the same year. The company became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Japanese brewer Kirin at the end of 2009, and subsequently merged with Kirin's existing dairy subsidiary National Foods, which controls Pura milk and Berri fruit juice as well as the local license for Yoplait. Revenues for 2018 were approx US$2.9bn. Stuart Irvine is CEO. In 2018, the group announced plans to divest its dairy division to focus on alcoholic beverages. Those assets were eventually split between Canadian company Caputo and Chinese dairy producer Mengniu. In 2018, the group planted its flag in the UK market for the first time with the purchase of London-based craft brewer Fourpure, followed the following year by Yorkshire-based Magic Rock. Those businesses were combined in 2020 under the name Little World Beverages. That division also has a presence in the US through New Belgium Brewing Company. Lion traces its history back to the first days of colonisation: its earliest subsidiary was established in New Zealand in 1840, and the Lion name was adopted in 1915 following a series of mergers of local brewers. The Nathan retail business was acquired later, and the enlarged group moved to Australia in the 1990s following the acquisition of local giant Bond Breweries and other regional companies.
Capsule checked 20th January 2020
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Adbrands Daily Update 25th Nov 2019: Lion's parent Kirin has finally secured a buyer for its Australian dairy and fruit juice division following a protracted search. More than a year after it began seeking a buyer it has agreed a deal to sell the business to Chinese giant Mengniu Dairy for A$600m. Brands include Dairy Farmers, Pura and Big M packaged milk; Dare and Farmers Union iced coffee; Vitasoy, Yoplait yoghurt and Daily Juice, among others. The acquisition is subject to regulatory approval in Australia.
Adbrands Daily Update 29th Apr 2019: Hot on the heels of its acquisition of UK-based cheese producer Dairy Crest, Canadian firm Saputo strengthened its position in Australia with a deal to acquire the speciality cheese unit of Lion Dairy & Drinks for A$280m (around US $197m). Brands being transferred include South Cape, Tasmanian Heritage, Mersey Valley and King Island Dairy. Saputo established a dominant presence in the Australian market in 2018 with the acquisition of leading local producer Devondale Murray Goulburn. Lion is continuing to look for a buyer for its remaining dairy and juice assets.
Adbrands Social Media 18th Apr 2019: "Tokyo Dry 2". Here's a fabulously joyful spot from DDB New Zealand for the popular "dry" process spin-off from local hero beer Steinlager. (It's the brewing process made famous by Asahi Super Dry in which almost all the sugar is converted to alcohol to give lower calorie content and less of an aftertaste). And they know what they're talking about at Steinlager when they produce a Japanese-style lager: the brewery is a regional division of Kirin. It's a second bite of the cherry for Steinlager and DDB, who have teamed up before for this sort of Tokyo-themed culture mash-up, but this one is the best to-date. The backing track is a remix of 'Slice of Heaven' by Dave Dobbyn. Let's dance!
Adbrands Social Media 18th Mar 2019: "Ultra Good Inside". So a dumbbell and a skateboard meet at a party... It's clearly a sign of the times that the latest mainstream launch from Australian beer Hahn - one of the lead brands in the portfolio of local brewery giant Lion - is a mainstream low-carb beer made partly from rice so it's also gluten-free. The brief to agency Thinkerbell was to avoid the four Bs of traditional beer advertising: blokes, banter, bars and barbecues. It was all looking pleasantly surreal until the last five seconds, when at least two of those rules get broken. That's definitely two blokes at the end and it may be a kitchen but it certainly looks like a bar. Also, how are they going to keep all those guests happy with only 10 bottles of beer? And only one bowl of crisps?!?
Adbrands Weekly Update 4th Oct 2018: Australian food and drink group Lion, a division of Kirin of Japan, announced a strategic review of its dairy and drinks division, whose products include branded milks Dairy Farmers and Pura, flavoured milk Dare, Berri juice and King Island cheese. It has always been an odd fit with what is otherwise Australia's second largest brewer, maker of XXXX, Toohey's and Hahn Super Dry among other brands. Investors are already speculating on a bid from local soft drinks giant Coca-Cola Amatil.
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