C&C considers Nordic expansion of Magners cider within three years

C&C could expand its Magners cider brand to the Nordic markets — specifically Sweden and Finland — within the next three years, although group chief executive, John Dunsmore, said that the move is still at the “drawing board” level.

Mr Dunsmore was speaking after C&C’s annual general meeting in Dublin yesterday, a day after the group announced its intention to buy the Irish, Northern Irish and Scottish divisions of the Anheuser Busch/InBev group, for nearly €205 million — a deal which is due to be completed in October, depending on shareholder approval at an extraordinary general meeting at the same time.

Mr Dunsmore — the former head of British brewing company, Scottish & Newcastle and chief of C&C for the last nine months — also said there existed a good opportunity to achieve double-digit growth for Magners in the US market and to introduce more cider-related products into the group’s portfolio.

Calling the cider sub-sector “a very versatile area”, he said any future products in this regard wouldn’t necessarily be produced under the Bulmers/Magners brand name.

He said that the planned strengthening of the C&C portfolio, via this week’s acquisition (giving C&C distribution rights to a number of international beer brands and outright ownership of Scottish lager brand, Tennent’s) would guard against the temptation of doing too much with one brand — ie Bulmers/Magners. Indeed, the group is in the midst of withdrawing Magners mid-strength due to poor sales in the British market.

Shareholder reaction to this week’s expansion plans seemed positive yesterday; although there was one call from the floor to remove some of the board’s old guard. However, Mr Dunsmore saluted the board for making the “brave decision” to change its management structure nine months ago, which ultimately led to this week’s announcement.

Meanwhile, C&C’s finance director Stephen Glancey reiterated the group’s target of €5m in cost savings would not lead to more job cuts or a reduction in capacity in Ireland.

He said it would be more to do with “optimisation of the network”.

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