The great World Cup beer swindle

By Hayley Hannan

The new Heineken official Rugby World Cup glass (left), which is 25ml smaller than the old glass. Photo / Brett Phibbs
The new Heineken official Rugby World Cup glass (left), which is 25ml smaller than the old glass. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Rugby World Cup official sponsor Heineken has increased beer keg prices and reduced the size of some regulation beer glasses less than 80 days out from the tournament.

Close to 100 bars nationwide now have smaller 400ml glasses as a replacement for their 425ml Heineken tap beer glasses.

DB Breweries, Heineken's distributor, is in the process of delivering redesigned 250ml glasses and a new 500ml option.

From July 1, Heineken, Export, Tui, Monteiths and DB Draught tap products' prices will rise 4.5 per cent, while pack beer, RTD and cider prices will increase 4.7 per cent.

James, who wishes to remain anonymous, contacted the Weekend Herald after paying the same price for a shrunken 400ml glass of beer.

"The glasses are a different shape as well as being a different size ... it's a bit of a case of smoke and mirrors."

He likened the move to Cadbury's decision two years ago to reduce chocolate blocks from 250g to 200g but charge the same price.

For Andrew Waite, co-owner of The Saint in Browns Bay, DB's double whammy left him with few options.

"They hit us doubly. Because we are not making as much profit they have to increase prices on premises. They argue that the excise tax and petrol have gone up ... They say you have to increase your price or you shrink the glass."

As a distributor of tap Heineken, he has to use the regulation glasses. His restaurant and two bars will offer the 400ml for the same price - despite making less profit per glass.

Other bars the Weekend Herald contacted chose to serve a 400ml glass of beer at the same price as the previous 425ml glass. Prices range from $7.50 to $9 a glass.

Kingslander bar owner Steve Gillett said the new glasses were a positive move for consumers. "The fact is beer is going to go up 4 per cent in July and [the new glasses] mean we don't have to put up our prices."

DB Breweries stands by its decision. The company faces increasing production and distribution costs and a rise in excise tax that was higher than expected, said hospitality general manager Andrew Campbell.

"In light of events in Christchurch, and in recognition of the challenges many operators are facing in this recessionary environment, we decided to delay our price increase [from April 1] until June."

Hospitality operators and customers were given the option of choosing between three glassware size options, he said, and feedback has been positive.

He said the glasses are here to stay past the rugby tournament - they're a global initiative, aiming to provide customers and consumers with stronger glassware and more size choice.

Products across the board are quietly downsizing, said Consumer NZ adviser Maggie Edwards, and consumers need to be aware of it.

"It's happened with a lot of products ... This happens in supermarkets, but because the weight is there and the price is there, it's more noticeable."

The change did not seem to be consumer-friendly.

What's changed

Last month
$8 for a 425ml glass of Heineken beer

$8 for a 400ml glass of Heineken beer

How much are you missing?
After 16 glasses, or 4 rounds between 4 people: 400ml beer, one full glass.

- NZ Herald

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