Diageo's Guinness lager falls flat

Sales of new black beer disappoint in Ireland and US

Diageo might be the world’s biggest drinks company but it is struggling to turn Guinness into a lager, the firm said today.

Guinness Black Lager — a new version of the iconic stout which gives it the fizz of lager — was launched in the US in August 2011 and in Ireland last year but sales have been “disappointing”. There are no plans for a UK launch as yet.

Chief financial officer Deirdre Mahlan said: “When people taste it they really like the liquid but it is about getting the consumer to understand black lager.

“With any brand you have to educate the consumer… actually finding the right trigger can sometimes take a bit of time.”

Overall sales of Guinness were  down and the group lost share as it refused to cut prices in tough beer markets. But Diageo’s huge roster of spirits — from Johnnie Walker whisky to Captain Morgan rum and Tanqueray gin — were much stronger, with US drinkers in particular snapping up premium vodkas Cîroc and Ketel One.

The firm grew sales 5% to £6.04 billion pounds in the half year to December, as the US and emerging markets continued to outpace struggling Europe.