License article

Hipsters and surfers break 153-yr record as NSW beer sales above SA for Coopers

Beer sales in NSW for Coopers Brewery outstripped its home state of South Australia for the first time in the company's 153-year history in 2015, as managing director Tim Cooper warned the only way for an industry-wide decline in beer consumption to reverse would be for wine to be taxed more.

NSW sales represented 24.5 per cent of total sales for Coopers in the 12 months ended December 31, 2015, surpassing South Australia for the first time on a yearly basis. Sales in South Australia, where Coopers is headquartered, were 24.3 per cent. Victoria represents 19.1 per cent of sales and Queensland 16.4 per cent.

Dr Cooper said the NSW market had been steadily rising for Coopers because of its popularity among inner-city bearded hipsters in Sydney, and big demand on the northern NSW coast. The South Australian market had been falling back on a relative basis because the population was ageing the fastest of any mainland state. Older people drink less beer.

"It's a reflection of demand and also shows the demographic challenges we face in South Australia," he said.

Dr Cooper said it was a milestone for the company, which has a national market share of 5 per cent and is the largest Australian-owned beer company. Market leader Lion, the maker of XXXX Gold and Tooheys, is owned by Japan's Kirin Corporation, and Carlton & United Breweries, which makes Victoria Bitter and Carlton Draught, is owned by Britain's SABMiller which is about to be swallowed itself in a global mega-merger by Anheuser-Busch InBev.

Summer spurt

Dr Cooper saids the summer hot weather gave a last-gasp spurt to sales in December, which meant that month was the biggest on record for national sales of the group's main products, Pale Ale and Sparkling Ale. Total sales volumes for the 12 months of 2015 across Coopers was up 4.4 per cent to 80.7 million litres.


He said it was too early to say if Coopers would beat the 2014-15 net profit after tax of $28.9 million it notched last year, with almost seven months of the financial year gone.

"We're sort of matching where we were last year so that's encouraging," he said of the company that started life in 1862.

Across the industry, more than 10 per cent of total beer volumes have disappeared from all players in the past six years. Beer consumption is at 68-year lows, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics as drinkers shift to other beverages such as wine.

Dr Cooper said while the hot weather had given beer a temporary boost, he said a reversal of the downward trend for brewers would only occur if the federal government made a decisive move to strip out the Wine Equalisation Tax rebate which gives wine producers a $500,000 a year leg-up, and made other changes such as shifting wine to a volumetric tax.

"That would assist the overall situation for brewers," he said. He doesn't think the federal government would remove the twice-yearly excise increases which apply to beer.

Wine sales up 14pc

It comes as the wine industry becomes increasingly optimistic, with figures out from industry body Wine Australia on January 21 showing the value of wine exports jumped 14 per cent to $2.1 billion, buoyed by the sharp fall in the Australian dollar.  

Wine Australia chief executive Andreas Clark said annual exports had reached their highest point since October 2007 and had grown in every one of Australia's top 15 export destinations. China made the biggest gains, up 66 per cent to $370 million to be just below the second-ranked export market of the United Kingdom, which grew by 0.2 per cent to $376 million.