The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

Sweden laps up Kiwi beer

Epic founder Luke Nicholas says the firm's beer has struck a chord with Swedish people. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Epic founder Luke Nicholas says the firm's beer has struck a chord with Swedish people. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Craft brewer Epic is claiming victory over brewing giant Lion in the more than $3 billion Swedish beer market.

Both companies have entered Sweden's heavily regulated liquor trade - in which the only retail outlets able to stock products containing more than 3.5 per cent alcohol are the Government-owned Systembolaget stores - in the last 12 months.

"Epic is the number one New Zealand beer brand in Sweden," said founder Luke Nicholas.

Nicholas said Sweden had become Epic's biggest export market.

Lion secured a distribution agreement with Systembolaget for its Steinlager Pure slimline cans, while Epic won a tender to stock its Armageddon brand in the state-run off-licenses.

But while Epic said it had sold 600,000 bottles in Sweden since March, Lion said the slimline cans were a "new format" in the Swedish market and consumers hadn't responded as favourably to the product as expected.

Liz Read, Lion's external relations director, said the firm had stopped supplying Steinlager Pure to Sweden.

Read said Systembolaget liked the Steinlager brand and the company was having discussions with its Swedish distributor regarding selling the beer in a bottle format in that country in the future.

"Regarding Epic's assertion that it has beaten Steinlager in Sweden, it hadn't occurred to us there was a battle going on and we're delighted to see another New Zealand beer brand doing well elsewhere in the world," Read said. "Internationally, Steinlager is now selling about 13.5 million bottles annually."

Epic, which brews its beer in Otahuhu, was shipping two 12-metre containers, containing around 77,000 bottles, to that country every month.

Nicholas said Epic's Swedish distributor had initially thought it would take six months to sell the first container-load of Armageddon.

"It lasted three weeks," Nicholas said. "Armageddon has struck a chord with the Swedish people and they are drinking it very well."

He said Epic had also entered the on-premise market in Sweden.

"The initial trial of 100 kegs disappeared the day they went to market with it," Nicholas said.

He said Epic had sold so well in Systembolaget's 80 premium stores that there was now an opportunity for its products to be ranged in the all of the Government monopoly's 422 liquor outlets.

- NZ Herald

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