New South Wales takes over as top drinkers of Coopers

Coopers has a national market share of 5 per cent and is the last remaining sizeable Australian-owned brewer. Photo: Paul JonesNSW has become the ­biggest-selling beer market in Australia for family-owned Coopers Brewery for the first time in 153 years.

The historic shift has prompted the South Australian group to assess the merits of setting up a large distribution site on the eastern seaboard to service the expanding NSW market, where the sheer size of the population helped drive NSW to the No. 1 position among the states.

Sales figures for the first seven months of 2014-15 show that NSW has overtaken Coopers’ home state of South Australia as its strongest performer after extra momentum built during the month of January.

NSW accounted for 26.3 per cent of total Coopers beer sales, compared with 24.8 per cent in South Australia for the financial year to date.

Coopers’ managing director Tim Cooper said on Monday that it was the first time on a year-to-date basis that NSW had snared the No. 1 position, and that was likely to be permanent now.

“It’s likely to stay that way forever now,” he said.

He attributes it to the larger ­population base, strong growth in keg beer volumes in Sydney inner-city pubs, and the slow population growth in his home state.

“Our population’s relatively static and it’s an ageing population,” he said.

Coopers was still assessing whether it might be worthwhile setting up a warehouse distribution site in NSW to service the market, with beer currently transported from the Adelaide ­brewery. The company would weigh up the better quality which arises from keeping the beer on site at the brewery for longer, versus transport efficiency and slight improvements in logistics.

“We’re in two minds whether it should be here (Adelaide) or ­somewhere interstate,” he said, ­referring to the next expansion of ­warehousing facilities.

Victoria represents 18 per cent of Coopers’ total beer sales.

Coopers in 2001 shifted the site of its Adelaide brewery to a former bus depot in the industrial suburb of Regency Park, and produces all its beer from that site. It was previously based in the ­affluent eastern suburb of Leabrook, bordered by million dollar-plus ­residential homes.

Coopers has a national market share of 5 per cent and is the last remaining sizeable Australian-owned brewer. It is an unlisted public company and owned by 140-plus shareholders, most of them descendants of the founding Cooper family who established the firm in 1862.

Lion made a $420 million takeover bid for Coopers in 2005 but it failed after a bitter and drawn-out battle when ­family shareholders voted against ­selling out.

Elsewhere in the liquor industry, ­private equity-owned Accolade Wines on Monday finalised the purchase of Barossa Valley-based Grant Burge Wines.

The assets which Accolade, 80 per cent-owned by CHAMP Private Equity, will assume ownership of include the Grant Burge Wines brand, the Krondorf winery and the Burge and Rathbone Fine Wine Merchants ­distribution business.

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