One place new VB won’t be sold

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An Australian marketing expert has laid out why, in business terms, an iconic beer producer has decided not to market its latest high-alcohol product to the Northern Territory.

In early March, Victoria Bitter, one of Australia’s most iconic beers, announced its plan to launch a new brew called Victoria Bitter Xtra, or VX.

The beverage will be brewed with the same ingredients that make up the original VB taste but with an added “bolder and more intense” flavour profile while boasting an alcohol content of 6 per cent.

VX will be sold in four-packs of 250ml stubbies, each worth 1.2 standard drinks, with a traditional 375ml VB stubby containing 1.4 standard drinks.

But the new product will not be sold in the NT, which is currently struggling with a spate of alcohol-related violence in parts.

VX is a new 6 per cent beer by VB. Picture: CUBVX is a new 6 per cent beer by VB. Picture: CUB

“Given the present issues in the NT, CUB is not selling our new VB product in the NT,” a CUB spokesman said upon the product’s launch.

Dr Andrew Hughes, a marketing lecturer from the Australian National University, recently told ABC Darwin it was a “rare” and “eloquent” statement, but business factors were also at play.

“They really put it out there about how they feel and what they’re doing and the ethical and social responsibility of the brand, but they still sell a lot of other full-strength beer,” he explained.

“What they would be worried about is losing more market share.

“A product like this has been very specifically targeted at Gen Z consumers.

“They’re really worried here about any concerns of those consumers of (VB) doing any social wrong.”

Dr Hughes suspected that the focus would be on ensuring the new product takes off in “southern states” while protecting the core VB product.

VX beer will not be marketed in the Northern Territory. Supplied CUBVX beer will not be marketed in the Northern Territory. Supplied CUB

He also said observations over recent years suggested VB is trying to move away from being seen as “too blokey”.

“They moved away from the (Hard-Earned Thirst campaign) to now ‘It’s Knock-off Time’,” he explained.

The ‘Knock-Off Time’ campaign was launched in 2019 and was described by Carlton and United Breweries as: “all the best bits of iconic VB advertising but with a modern insight that acknowledges the changing nature of the knock-off occasion.

“So they’re not trying to encourage drinking during the day, or when you’re still at work or drinking too early in the day – it’s ‘knock-off time’ and drinking responsibly,” Dr Hughes said.

“They’re very careful and conscious of their image here of promoting ethical and social consumption of their product.”

A hard-earned (responsible) thirst.A hard-earned (responsible) thirst.

Dr Hughes said a brand being caught up in anti-social behaviour would lead to a loss of market share, and consumers are willing to fork out with companies doing the right thing – citing Tesla as an example.

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“I think they realise the social harm now to their brand image … and that brand damage sticks,” he said.

Market research VB was the fifth most-sold beer in 2022, behind Great Northern, Carlton Dry, XXXX Gold and Coopers.

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