Bass finds the proof is in the lemons

OPPOSITE the headquarters of Bass in Burton upon Trent is a pub proclaiming itself "A Heritage Ale House". Yet the distinctive sign for draught Bass above the front door is smaller than the nearby advertisement for Hooper's Hooch, an alcoholic lemonade with a heritage stretching back to 9 June, 1995.

Since then the summer has warmed up considerably, and sales of Hooper's Hooch have soared. Cash-and-carries have reported selling 70 cases in 10 minutes. The weather has been a bonus, but the company is convinced it has a long-term winner on its hands. Plans are under way to triple production, and this weekend sees the launch of Hooch in cans, six months ahead of schedule.

How has it come about? And why would a brewery want to encourage a taste for a sweeter, lighter drink than its staple product? The answer to the second question provides a clue to the first. Although real ale sales are up on last year, the total beer market has shrunk by 25 per cent since 1979. Few miners and foundry workers stop off after work to slake epic thirsts. "The days of drinking pints with the lads are on the wane as the country's infrastructure changes," says Leslie Fitzell, one of Bass's brands directors. "As the brand leader, we have to look at the evolving mixed-sex market. Beer for many is not a particularly nice thing to drink. We have to find other ways to capture the imagination."

Alcoholic lemonade had been tried only in Australia. But market research suggested that it would meet many of Bass's requirements. It was light and refreshing, which would appeal particularly to women and young people of both sexes. Yet the Hooper's name gave it a sense of tradition. William Hooper, inventor of the hot-water bottle, was making lemonade in the 1840s, and Bass acquired his trademark long ago.

Hooch was also a premium product, offering high profit margins. In pubs it sells for pounds 1.75 to pounds 2 a bottle. The alcohol by volume level is 4.8 per cent, higher than draught Bass. Unlike good Bass, it is also cloudy - what Mr Fitzell calls an "old-style appearance". Lemonade, he says, "has a tradition close to the British psyche".

Yes, but those of us with fond memories of reading Enid Blyton prefer not to think of the Secret Seven lying legless in the long grass. Putting alcohol into what had hitherto been an innocent drink of childhood led to something of a public outcry. The publicity was beyond the brewery's wildest dreams. Nothing was more likely to appeal to the late teens and early twenties market than being told a drink was potentially harmful.

"We knew it would be controversial," says Mr Fitzell, "but we are marketing the product responsibly. The bottle is clearly marked alcoholic and the name Hooch reinforces the point. It's only for sale to the over-18s."

But does not this process delay, or even put at risk, the traditional transition of youth from pop to beer?

"There's always going to be a market for draught Bass and Carling Black Label," says Mr Fitzell. "Those products and others like them are our core business. But there is a segmenting of the market which we have to cover. It may be that some youngsters will never develop a taste for beer."

In years to come, the pub over the road from Bass headquarters could become a heritage lemonade house.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Voices
voices
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
Sport
Ronaldinho signs the t-shirt of a pitch invader
footballProof they are getting bolder
News
William Hague
people... when he called Hague the county's greatest
Extras
indybestKeep extra warm this year with our 10 best bedspreads
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people
Voices
voicesBy the man who has
News
people... and stop them from attacking people
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
Sport
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...

Trust Accountant - Kent

NEGOTIABLE: Austen Lloyd: TRUST ACCOUNTANT - KENTIf you are a Chartered Accou...

Graduate Recruitment Consultant - 2013/14 Grads - No Exp Needed

£18000 - £20000 per annum + OTE £30000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...

Law Costs

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - Law Costs Draftsperson - NICHE...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?