The first female boss of the Brewers Association, Denita Wawn – building the beer brand and standing up to ‘activism’

Posted by | July 11, 2014 | All, Enterprising, Events, Food & wine | No Comments

Australians love a beer. But when the enthusiasm for beer of some of our brethren becomes a bit excessive, beer as a brand can get a bad rap.

Denita Wawn has the big job of representing the reputations and brands of our brewers, as the CEO of the Brewers Association and she joined us for our Fulworks Business Q&A on Brand and Reputation recently.   (**Check out her video, attached)

She’s not going to take a backwards step when it comes to the activities of the anti-alcohol activists, and says the beer industry will rise to the challenge and keep spreading the word about the positive impacts it has across the community – “from land to hand”.  Denita is concerned at the level of government funding for alcohol programs – and believes it is not targeted in the right areas.

In January 2012 she became the first woman ever appointed CEO of the Brewers Association of Australia and New Zealand. She has built a commendable reputation for policy development and chairs the body that manages the code for alcohol advertising. Previously, Denita worked for 6 years at the Australian Hotels Association and 10 years with the National Farmers’ Federation. Can Australia’s brewers meet the expectations of government, business and the community?

**Note:  Another woman showing the way in the beer business, is Peta Fielding, of Burleigh Brewing.  Featured in my column in the AFR, and at our Business Q&A in 2013.

Denita Wawn – What challenges do you face as the first female boss of beer?  We have to remember that the business of beer is about more than just the breweries.  There are a lot of people in the business of beer – to get the product “from land to hand” – that is from the growers of the hops, to branding, all the way to customer sales.

Does beer have a good story?  Yes, it does, but we have to break through a few barriers.  Sales have been declining in some areas – it’s viewed as a drink for blokes – people think it’s fattening, but it does not have as many calories as wine – you can drink it with food – it’s good for everyone – IN MODERATION.

Are women drinking beer?  Less than 20% of women drink beer – we have to get the message out there!  It’s thirst quenching – it is lower in calories – you know what you’re drinking.  We are not great at selling those attributes to women.

Why does beer get a bad rap? Is it part of a drinking problem in Australia?  When it comes to alcohol consumption there is a decrease in binge drinking.  We have to tell the real story – we have to convey positive information as part of a broader industry piece.

Are you concerned about anti-alcohol activism and funding?  The Brewers Association is concerned that government funding in the past has not been focussed in the right direction.  Millions of dollars has been spent on, probably, well-meaning programs but not necessarily well-executed or targeted programs.

How will you combat the activism?  We have a number of activists who portray alcohol in a bad light and who seek antiquated policies – our role is to change that, put the facts on the table, and highlight our contributions to corporate social responsibility.  There is alcohol misuse, but we have to target programs to those areas.

What programs are in place?  The DrinkWise Australia campaign is another way to connect with people through social media – some 30% of respondents to the campaign say they have changed their behaviour.

**While you’re visiting us here at Fulworks – check out my story about Peta Fielding of Burleigh Brewing – she’s the CEO of the company that makes beer by the beach at Burleigh Heads. A fine example of a woman, seizing on the opportunity and showing leadership in the business of brewing.