A Lion roars in the UK

Wednesday, 12 January 2011 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

British pub chain, J D Wetherspoons, hosted a 19-day beer festival from 27 October to 14 November, 2010. Arguably the biggest in the world, the festival featured a range of 50 real ales from across the world, including from brewers in Italy, Belgium, the USA – and Sri Lanka.

Representing Sri Lanka at the beer festival was Lion Stout, from the Lion Brewery. Described by beer connoisseurs as a “…a hearty, traditional stout presenting the typically aromatic, chocolaty, coffee- and toffee-accented notes of a bold European or American strong stout, with pruny, mocha aromas and flavours and a hop-heavy yet smooth, peppery, dark chocolate finish…”, it is recommended that Lion Stout be paired with anything accented with coconut, such as spicy Thai and Sri Lankan coconut curries or creamy coconut-based desserts accompanied by dark chocolate candy.

Beer aficionados have long revered Lion, which comes with a high pedigree; the lager comes in at 4.8% abv while the stout is a hefty 8.8% abv and is the only beer to be endorsed by the late British Michael Jackson, one of the foremost beer writers in the EU and the USA, popularly known as the “Beer Hunter”.

He was so fond of it that every bottle carries his mark of approval, describing it as “a wonderfully assertive example of tropical stout”. He is not alone. Lion Stout is one of the “300 beers you have to try before you die” according to famous beer writer Roger Protz in his acclaimed book of the same title.

“This endorsement has served us well in gaining recognition and acceptance among the beer trade,” said Sharlene Adams, Head of Exports, Lion Brewery. “We chose to enter the UK market to cater to the Sri Lankan community living in the Greater London area as well as to exploit the emerging trend and interest in foreign beers of different styles to lager. Our focus brand in the UK is Lion stout with which we intend to drive sales among British drinkers.”

Considering the already mind-boggling array of beer and ale available in the UK, how has the response to the Lion brand been so far? Adams admits, “It has been difficult to make a breakthrough into the non-ethnic mainstream market. However with the recent appointment of a British buyer who has a good understanding of the domestic market, we are already making progress with listings in non ethnic channels.”

Lion Brewery is targeting beer connoisseurs with the UK launch of Lion Stout and Lion Lager in late 2010 through Surfax, the British alcohol importer and exporter, which boasts an eclectic repertoire of award-winning global beers. The company already exports to the Maldives (where they took market leadership from Tiger beer in 2008) as well as to the USA, Canada, Sweden, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Australia.

Established in 1849 by Sir Samuel Baker, the Lion brand has been brewed since 1881. Currently, Lion Brewery has a market share of over 85% in Sri Lanka. With both consumers and the trade alike in the UK looking to add higher quality imports to the mix, Lion is set to be a great success especially when paired with world foods.

Tips for trade

Many Sri Lankan companies successfully do business in, or with, the UK. The UK is one of Sri Lanka’s most significant trading partners, and trade links are wide and deep.

If you have a unique product or service or business idea that you think will find a market in the UK, we recommend the following tips.

nIdentify your market – who exactly are your customers, and what are their characteristics? Lion Brewery identified not only the Sri Lankan community in London but also a growing trend amongst young people to experiment with new tastes. 

  •    Get a ‘local’ opinion on the viability of your idea. Lion Brewery appointed a British buyer to help them improve their market penetration.
  •     Be persistent – if you don’t succeed at first, try a different route. Have faith in your product or service.   

The UK has one of the most open business environments in the world. It is also the No. 1 gateway to the EU, a market of almost 500 milion people.

For a wealth of information on the practicalities of setting up business in the UK, visit the UK Trade & Investment website at http://www.ukti.gov.uk/investintheuk/faqs.html.