CUB considering new direct to consumer model

19 June, 2020 by Deborah Jackson

An online consumer survey issued by Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) last week has riled liquor retailers who were already frustrated by the brewing giants direct to consumer selling ventures.

The survey, which was sent from “The Great Northern Team,” introduces and asks for feedback on a new CUB beer subscription service. The service would see a range of CUB brands delivered direct to consumers for a set price, with free delivery. It also promises exclusive access to member benefits.

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CUB has told National Liquor News that the email was issued in error and wrongly suggests that CUB has launched a beer subscription service. But the spokesperson also didn’t rule it out, saying: “We are still considering the suitability of a potential service.”

The email describes the subscription model as, “a convenient way for our most loyal drinkers to have their favourite CUB brands delivered free every month at a locked in price. No more going to the shops and looking for a car park, no more comparing prices – and no more lugging a heavy slab back to your boot!

“You’ll also get access to exclusive member benefits – merch, brewery tours and some great brand experiences. Plus, you’ll have the flexibility to trial different products across our portfolio, order more or less each month, and rollover any unused credit.”

One retailer who spoke to National Liquor News anonymously, said: “It’s one thing to see CUB pursuing another direct to consumer avenue, but the wording of their email is actively discouraging shoppers from visiting bricks and mortar bottle shops. And that feels like a real punch in the guts.”

Great Northern is a brand that performs particularly well in the off-premise. In fact last year it was named Best Marketed Beer or Cider at the Australian Liquor Industry Awards (ALIA) as well as being named Highly Commended in the Off-Premise Beer category. This recognition could be largely attributed to the great in-store visibility given by retailers and the in-store promotions offered by CUB. And a key concern that was raised to National Liquor News about the proposed CUB subscription model, is its promise of “exclusive” member benefits.

Suppliers selling direct to consumers is not new and in fact it is an avenue that has increased during recent times, particularly with smaller wine, beer and spirits producers who needed to find a way to fill the gap left by the on-premise shutting down.

But CUB’s approach with BoozeBud and eBay have been a point of contention with retailers in recent years.

When CUB’s eBay venture was initially revealed, one retailer who spoke to TheShout anonymously said: “Retailers have long worked with suppliers to support their brand image and health, however taking a route to market where pricing differs from their price vision within retail market along with direct marketing to retail customers raises concerns and impacts confidence working with the suppliers products.”

While CUB has confirmed to National Liquor News that no such beer subscription service has yet been launched, it is definitely being considered as an option.

The spokesperson said: “This survey email was issued in error. It wrongly suggests we have introduced a subscription service, which is not true.

“It is correct that we regularly conduct research with our consumers on their preferences. The survey email was supposed to be part of that process, but should not have been sent out in that form.

“We are still considering the suitability of a potential service but understand our off-prem customers’ concerns.”