Losing its Bottle

PizzaExpress will never be the same as SABMiller drops the Italian brand name, says 'only Peroni' and targets British pubs. Abigail Townsend reports
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The Independent Online

The world's second-largest brewer, SABMiller, is to call time on the confusion over its latest acquisition, the Italian beer company Peroni, by dropping the Nastro Azzurro brand in the UK.

SAB took over Peroni in June after paying the Peroni family, whose ancestors founded the company in 1846, €246m (£171m). The deal was met with some criticism in the City as many felt the London-listed SAB had overpaid.

But the brewing giant is now aiming to prove the doubters wrong by positioning Peroni as one of its select band of major international exported beers.

There is one problem, however: outside its domestic market, no one is exactly sure what Peroni is called. Drinkers can buy both brands in Italy, but in the UK, Nastro Azzurro, made famous by the restaurant chain PizzaExpress, is the dominant brand - not Peroni, the company's original, biggest and arguably best-known brand.

One plan - the final strategy for Peroni will not be finalised until next month - is therefore to do away with the Nastro Azzurro brand in the UK and US, another key export market, in favour of Peroni. The move will cut SAB's current portfolio of international export brands - US beer Miller Genuine Draft, the Czech Republic-brewed Pilsner Urquell, Peroni and Nastro Azzurro, which was launched in the 1960s - from four to three. It will still be available in the Italian market.

SAB, formed in 2002 after South African Breweries took over US rival Miller, hopes the move will end the brand confusion and help shift Peroni away from its lengthy relationship with pizzas. It wants to convince drinkers across the UK to embrace Peroni as a premium imported lager to be drunk in bars and pubs - not just with a pizza.