SABMILLER, that beer brewing giant started at the bottom tip of the African continent 128 years ago, wants us to find better and more ways of drinking beer.

The aim is to sell a lot more beer to many more drinkers.

“We know there’s untapped potential in beer and it’s time to change the image of beer as just a drink for guys watching sport,” says the company’s marketing director, Nick Fell, in a presentation last week in the world’s beer-guzzling capital, London.

To date, beer’s heartland has been masculine consumer occasions, says Fell.

“Why shouldn’t beer be a great choice with food, or something that has much more appeal for women?”There you have it, dear reader: after selling more than 300m hectolitres of beer in the year to March, the group wants to displace that chilled bottle of wine as a preferred dinner table beverage.

Watch out KWV Holdings and Distell, I’d say.

The thing with SABMiller is that it may just succeed in its rather lofty ambition. After all, it started in business by spotting an opportunity in the loneliness of SA’s mineworkers, and their lack of entertainment, so many years ago.

Beer was just the thing they needed.

Today the empire has expanded to operate in more than 80 countries, employing about 70,000 people. The world’s second-largest brewer now estimates it sells about 140,000 bottles of the thirst-quencher every minute.

Fell’s message comes barely a fortnight after the company was turned down by Heineken, the third-largest beer brewer, for a possible union.

Today the empire has expanded to operate in more than 80 countries, employing about 70,000 people. The world’s second-largest brewer now estimates it sells about 140,000 bottles of the thirst-quencher every minute.

In fact, it wasn’t really Heineken that declined SABMiller’s takeover proposal in September. Rather, it was Charlene de Carvalho, heir to the Heineken family fortune and daughter of the Dutch company’s founder, Freddy Heineken. She controls the family’s 25% economic interest in Heineken through a paper-thin majority in the holding company.

Had an SABMiller/Heineken deal been concluded it would have propelled the combined brewer into the world’s largest beer maker.

SABMiller therefore now has to find new revenue streams.

Women beer drinkers are the new target market and can thank De Carvalho for insisting on retaining “her” company in its current form and putting SABMiller in the spotlight as a takeover target for other companies.

SABMiller’s aggressive endeavours will not necessarily save it from the unwanted attention of its bigger rival, Anheuser-Busch InBev. If market rumours are anything to go by, ABInBev may just sweep SABMiller off its feet and swiftly arrange the necessary funding to do so.

In the interim, SABMiller will do some wooing of its own by attracting more women to its products. The strategy will be to use its local knowledge, tailoring its offerings to suit local palates, says Fell. “Achieving this will take time but it can be done. We believe our unrivalled local market insights — as the most local of the global brewers — combined with our size and scale will allow us to really shape the future of beer in new and interesting ways.”

Not long ago, Bloomberg reported that the company was helping taverners in SA’s previously disadvantaged areas to refurbish their facilities to be more welcoming to women. And it is aiming to firmly place the tipple on the dinner tables of Soweto.

That’s an opportunity KWV, SA’s biggest maker of wines and spirits, totally missed. Its success in the upper middle class suburbs has made it placid and a potentially bigger wine market is just about to be spilt by lack of marketing and recognition.

A toast to the smarter team, which is thinking outside the box.

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