Foster's has increased productivity at its two biggest Australian breweries as it continues its turnaround under the ownership of London-based brewer SABMiller. And it is expected to relaunch Crown Lager and an expanded range of Tasmanian beer Cascade soon.
The revitalisation of Foster's, Australia's second-biggest brewer and owner of the nation's most popular beer, VB, comes as it is being groomed as a key earnings driver for its London-based parent, together with China and India, to make the Asia-Pacific region a source of growth and robust sales.
Ari Mervis, Foster's boss and managing director of SABMiller Asia-Pacific, said the Australian brewing arm would relaunch Crown Lager using new labelling and better hops to tighten the company's grip on the premium beer sector.
The first batch of the reformulated beer was brewed last week and was expected to hit the shops soon, Mr Mervis told BusinessDay as he prepared to address an investor conference in London.
He said the new Crown Lager complemented a recent relaunch of VB in October, which regained its position as Australia's biggest selling beer from rival XXXX Gold after being returned to its historic alcohol strength.
"We have done quite a lot of consumer research around Crown, which is in a very good space, so it's not like VB, which was broken."
Mr Mervis said Crown needed to be "dusted off" and consumers needed to be reminded why "it is Australia's finest beer".
"We are now using only the first choice of the hops harvest, which our brewers now have the choice of."
He said the company also looked at 2000 barley farmers across Australia to "hand-pick the top three".
The improvements for Crown would also be matched by a complete makeover for Cascade, which would tie in new advertising and marketing campaigns, fresh packaging and the introduction of new craft beers under the Cascade label.
Foster's would make greater use of the historic nature of the Cascade brewery, Australia's oldest, playing up its freshness profile and use of clean, green natural resources such as Tasmanian waters and hops.
It comes as Foster's, which was bought by SABMiller in 2011 for $12.3 billion, clocked up $90 million in synergy savings and was heading for $180 million in total savings by year four, Mr Mervis said.
Foster's had improved the productivity of its two main Australian breweries, Abbotsford in Victoria and Yatala in Queensland, where waste had fallen 20 per cent and 22 per cent respectively. Efficiency at Abbotsford was up 41 per cent and at Yatala had lifted 6 per cent.