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Steinlager Pure: We're drinking our beer, here

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When offered a Steinlager, yes is the new no

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One-year-olds are fond of saying no—and none more so than Steinlager Pure. Twelve months on from the launch of the new New Zealand Beer, its American spokesman continues to remind us: “What you say no to always defines you”. Harvey Keitel also persists in listing our history of tanties: Nuclear power? No! Not giving women the vote? No! Everest can’t be conquered? No! Genetic modification? No to that too!

Still other things drift overhead. The ad’s double negatives, for instance. Facts like our government is actually officially fine with an ear of lab-bred corn, for another. And this: every other country in the world also boasts an impressive list of firsts. For such a negative bunch, really, we’re positively forgiving.

But what’s the use of forgiveness if we can’t forget? Don’t worry, we’ve done that too. Forgotten is the Steinlager Idealogwrote about in 2006, the one that only managed two cursory mentions in its own company’s annual report. In its place is a Steinlager dubbed ‘Classic’—the one that grew three percent in the ’06-07 financial year. Alongside it sits a cheeky younger sibling christened ‘Pure’, that dared to nab a 3.5 percent share of the total beer market in its first year of life. Or, in terms your beer belly can appreciate, around one million cases.

Perhaps most surprising of all, the brothers aren’t rolling around the brewery floor, taking chunks out of each other. Despite many outlets running out of Pure within two months of its release, the elder Steinlager remains uninjured by cannibalisation. To the contrary: Pure may not have given Classic a new lease of life, but it very likely bought it one.

In 2006 Idealog said Steinlager was lost in marketing no-man’s land. For all its faults, a year later the Harvey Keitel ad did one thing: proved New Zealand’s national beer was back on the right track, however well beaten.

The man behind “They’re drinking our beer, there” isn’t a fan of Harvey-does-no, but Terry King does credit the marketing strategy with awakening “a latent desire for New Zealanders to have their own international brand of beer again”.

Good, because that was the intention. Danny Phillips, one of three leading Lions behind the latest Steinlager strategy, says: “As a country we’ve really grown up over the last few years. We realised what was happening and tapped into it.”

But not, bank manager forbid, with more taps. After enlisting the help of ad agency PublicisMojo, Lion realised a new ‘premiumisation’ was also being silently called for. For ease of speech they called it Pure.

“The Steinlager brand has been built up over 50 years,” says Phillips. “So we had this big group of people who loved the brand and the liquid—but also another group who loved the brand but found the taste too strong. We discovered there was this backlog of people just waiting to join up.”

And sign on the dotted credit card slip they did. Lion Nathan announced in May that its New Zealand operations were once again going swimmingly, after two years of treading water, land unseen.

This, despite the challenges: malt prices have gone up 50 percent in a year, with aluminium joining it for 40 percent of the rise. And transport costs? Let’s not even drive down that road. “There are a lot of factors working for and against us,” agrees Phillips.

Like global warming—or, more specifically, New Zealand warming. While Lion is chuffed with Pure’s part in the company’s 4.2 percent rise in gross revenue over the last year, it’s giving an equally hearty “Cheers!” to Summer: The Extended Version.

We all know there are more extended versions to be released—and the continued rise in the price of ingredients and fuel seems equally predictable. If Lion’s accountants are worried, they needn’t be. If there’s one thing that sends people to the beer fridge as fast as a hot day it’s a hot head, burning with problems. They might be drinking our beer there, but we don’t care—unless the shelves run empty again, in which case we’ll demand they give our bloody beer back, pronto.