The ACCC, the competition watchdog has fined Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) $20,400 over a beer called Byron Bay pale lager that was actually made on the NSW Central Coast, and the brewery has accepted that it may have mislead consumers over the labelling of the beer.
The Byron Bay Brewing Company is one of three boutique brewers in the far north coast surfing town, but only brews its pale lager for sale on tap at its site in Byron Bay.
Last year the Byron brewery struck up a deal with CUB, makers of VB, Crown lager and Carlton Draught, to make their beer under licence “to our exact recipe” at a $125-million brewery at Warnervale, 630km south of Byron Bay, in a bid to target the home market.
But the ACCC wasn’t happy with the labelling, which gave the impression the product was still a craft beer made in Byron Bay.
The back label said:
The Byron Bay Brewing Co is located on Skinners Shoot Road in Byron Bay. We’re housed in a historic location, a birthplace of much of the fame and spirit of Byron Bay which has attracted local and international musicians, artists and alternative thinkers since the 70s. Next time you’re in town, drop in and have a beer.
Byron Bay Brewing Co. 1 Skinners Shoot Road, Byron Bay NSW 2481.
Brewed in NSW by the Byron Bay Brewing Company and its Licencees.
ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said the labelling misled consumers who wanted to support small, niche businesses.
“When large companies portray themselves as small businesses, it undermines the unique selling point that such small businesses depend upon, and it misleads consumers,” he said.
As part of the deal with the ACCC, CUB paid two infringement notices costing $20,400 and has agreed to cease distribution of the pale lager with the misleading labelling.
CUB also promised to not make false or misleading representations concerning the scale of the brewery where its products are brewed or their place of origin.
CUB will place corrective notices on its website and in trade publications, and it will also provide a corrective notice for retailers to display at point-of-sale.
“This is an outcome that protects the interests of both beer buyers and small brewers.” Mr Sims said.
He added that the ACCC will be writing to other brewers to ensure the marketing and labelling of beer reflects where and by whom beer is brewed.
A number of international beer brands, including Peroni, Grolsch, Becks, Heineken, Stella Artois and Kronenbourg 1664 are brewed under licence in Australia. That detail is disclosed on the back of the bottle, along with the brewer, so the ACCC has no concerns there.
Despite campaigns such as #realPeroni (meaning Italian-brewed) from beer aficionados, the locally-made foreign beers aren’t necessarily a bad thing, with blind tastings by experts involving imported and under-licence beers revealing a preference for the local brews because they are fresher.