AUSTRALIA'S third-largest beer group, Coopers Brewery, is aiming to snare a 4 per cent share of the $350 million-plus cider market in Australia through a tie-up with the British manufacturer Thatchers Cider.
Coopers managing director Tim Cooper said in the first year of the deal the aim was to generate sales of 400,000 litres, rising to 2.2 million litres by the fifth year.
"That's the plan,'' he said.
There's no connection, however, with the Iron Lady – former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, who died last year. Thatchers Cider is a fourth-generation family company that has been making cider since 1904 in Somerset, and is not related to the late British leader.
Coopers has been closely examining the fast-growing Australian cider market for the past three years. The market is showing annual growth of 15.6 per cent by volume. It has signed an agreement with Thatchers Cider to sell the Thatchers Gold brand in Australia.
Most of the sales will be in pubs where the cider will be on tap. Thatchers bottled cider will also be available in bottle shops and liquor stores.
Thatchers Gold is the second-largest selling draught cider in the UK.
Coopers' distribution arm, Premium Beverages, also distributes overseas beer brands Sapporo, Carlsberg and Kronenbourg in Australia to complement the core Coopers beer range.
Thatchers Gold will be pitted against the big-selling ciders in Carlton & United Breweries' stable, which include Bulmers and market leader Strongbow. Rival brewer Lion has made strong inroads into the market with its Five Seeds brand.
Thatchers Cider managing director Martin Thatcher said Coopers and Thatchers shared similar values of heritage and family history.
Tankers are being transported to Coopers brewery in the Adelaide industrial suburb of Regency Park from the Thatchers facility in North Somerset, where the cider is being put into kegs and distributed through Australia.
Thatchers Cider processes about 25,000 tonnes of fruit a year at its facility in Britain for its cider.
In its core beer market, Coopers has a national market share of about 4.5 per cent and is aiming to reach 7 per cent by 2020. It lifted net profit by 13 per cent to $30.8 million in 2012-13. It is the last remaining Australian-owned beer group of substantial size following the takeover of Foster's by global conglomerate SABMiller in 2011 and the buyout of the former Lion Nathan by Japanese giant Kirin Corporation in 2009.