TALLINN - In a move intended to boost its share of the local market, Saku Olletehas, the largest brewery in Estonia, has started canning Carlsberg beer for the Baltic market.
The half-liter beer cans are intended to help Carlsberg boost sales in the Baltic state to 1.2 million liters per year and conquer a 25 percent share of the Estonian beer market.
The company also hopes to export an additional 350,000 liters to Latvian and Lithuanian markets.
In spring 2002 Saku began distributing Carlsberg beer in standard half-liter glass bottles, which consumers reportedly prefer. At the same time Finnish tourists, who account for a large portion of domestic beer sales, have shown a preference for 24-can cases of brew to cart back home (see story on Page 15).
Saku is the first Estonian brewery to begin canning the well-known Danish beer for the Baltic market. In order to launch this ambitious project, the brewery had to incorporate Carlsberg's quality control system standards into its production process.
Carlsberg Breweries, the fifth-largest brewer in the world, also performed an audit to ensure that the production capacities met its needs.
Alex Myers, vice president of Carlsberg Breweries, pointed to the technological level of the Saku facility as one of the reasons that it was selected to can the company's beverages.
Speaking at a videoconference, Myers went so far as to say that in the future part of Carlsberg's Denmark-based beer production could be transferred to Estonia, depending on the market and consumer demand.
"Technically, this wouldn't be a problem," he said.
The Estonian Breweries Association states that, with a 43 percent market share, Saku is the leader of the Estonian beer market.
Baltic Beverages Holding - owned equally by Carlsberg Breweries and Scottish & Newcastle - holds 75 percent of the shares in Saku Olletehas.
Carlsberg announced two weeks ago that its 2003 profits slumped by 5 percent due to the strong kroner and weaker foreign currencies. The brewer posted a consolidated net profit of 1.7 billion kroner (231 million euros), while pretax profits fell by 200 million to 2.67 billion kroner, and sales dropped by 3 percent to 34.6 billion.
For 2004, Carlsberg said it expected a small increase in net sales thanks to continued progress for the Carlsberg brand and growth in Eastern Europe. It also announced that it had acquired the remaining 40 percent stake in Carlsberg Breweries held by the Norwegian industrial group Orkla, thereby becoming the company's sole owner.