FEATURE20 February 2019

A brewing challenge

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FMCG Features Impact UK

Japanese brewer Asahi owns a portfolio of premium beers, and in this competitive environment insight is a central pillar of its business strategy. Rob Gray talks to global head of insight Paul Thomas

Asahi - brewing challenge

This is Paul Thomas’s first day back in Asahi Europe’s Woking head office post-honeymoon and, unsurprisingly, he appears sun-kissed and relaxed. Once we settle down to chat, however, there’s no doubt his mind is fully focused on the many business opportunities that enticed him to join the brewing group as global head of insight in May 2018.

Thomas was approached for the role after three years at drinks giant Diageo, where he held insight and innovation roles. There, he brought a new variant of Tanqueray gin to market – Flor de Sevilla – which has the bitter-sweet flavour of Seville oranges. But what of the challenges facing Asahi?

‘Challenges’ is the operative word because, although placed among the world’s top 10 brewing groups, Asahi is dwarfed by beer behemoths such as Anheuser-Busch InBev, Heineken, Carlsberg and Molson Coors.

“We are absolutely a challenger brand, ” says Thomas, “and we have set some pretty lofty ambitions about becoming what we ...