Drinking Danishly

on 30 November, 2016

So, Danish brewer is spending £15m on revitalising its flagship Carlsberg Export brand (see news story) and at the core of activity is emphasising the company’s Danish origins.

Speaking as someone who is half Danish and lived and worked in Copenhagen, or København as the Danes and Carlsberg would have it, for approximately two years, this whole fascination with Nordic Noir crime thriller books and TV series, plus the current obsession with all things Danish, amuses and bemuses me.

I did ask Carlsberg UK vice president of marketing, Liam Newton, at the briefing yesterday (November 29) if they are a bit late coming to the party. After all the first Nordic Noir series, ‘The Killing’ was first shown on the BBC around 2011 (Denmark 2007), The Bridge in 2012, Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo et al) goes back to 2005.

At the briefing we had Helen Russell the author of ‘The Year of Living Danishly, explaining how she came to live in the world’s happiest country (husband got a job at Lego). In an amusing presentation, she explained this Danish concept of ‘hygge’ or being hyggelig.

Personally I felt her definition was a trifle over the top, too abstract. For me, the nearest English word would be ‘cosy’: being cosy with friends and family. With candles lit, it could be ‘eftermiddagskaffe’ (afternoon coffee – with cakes) or a meal with a few beers, snaps (akvavit). I don’t know for certain but I suspect that in the same way the word ‘rucksack’ comes from the Danish/Norwegian word for the same: rygsäck (literally: back pack). So hug is likely to come from hygge.

Anyway, I digress. So while Export is actually made at Carlsberg’s brewery in Northampton, the marketing of the brand will be all about the company’s Danish origins.

For beer aficiendos and the problematic ‘Millennials’ (18 to 34-year-olds), who are said to demand authenticity, quality and individual experiences according to Carlsberg’s own research, that could be an issue. But Newton assured me that their research also revealed that most mainstream beer drinkers have no idea where their favourite brands are made – and that they believe they all taste the same.

While 65% of all alcohol consumed in the UK is beer, the worrying statistics for the whole beer sector is that over the past five years the number of consumers drinking standard lager has fallen by 1.1m and the number drinking premium lager has fallen by 430,000 (Source: Kantar Alcovision June 2016).

Of all consumers that dropped out, 40% dropped out of all lager and only 16% traded up with ‘World beers’.

Last year, £40 billion was spent on alcohol in the UK. UK consumers drink on average 9.5 litres per person per year but consumption is falling. Fewer people are drinking less on fewer occasions.

Newton points out that while there is growth in so-called ‘World’ and ‘Craft’ beers, it will nowhere near make up for the losses in standard and premium. So, it’s up to the big boys to win drinkers back to beer.

Carlsberg Export, which Newton says came up number one in a blind test of major brands, is going Danish. If all goes according to plan, we’ll be cuddling up to our pints or bottles, lighting candles and generally indulging in hygge big time.

If all goes according to plan, Export drinkers could ‘probably’ be the happiest, hyggelig-iest lager drinkers in the world. I’m up for it.


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