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Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire,
|Mark Hunter, global CEO of Molson Coors|
Karan Bilimoria, chairman, Cobra Beer Partnership
|Products||Cobra Premium Beer|
The group's primary product is a premium beer with an alcohol strength of 4.8% volume. The beer was founded in 1989 by Karan Bilimoria, and Arjun Reddy – who thought that Britain needed a smoother, less gassy lager, which would appeal to both ale drinkers and lager drinkers alike. A blend of water, malted barley, yeast, rice, maize wheat and four varieties of hops is used to produce the required characteristics.
Cobra Beer was founded in 1989 by Karan Bilimoria, then aged 27 and £20,000 in debt. A Cambridge law graduate and qualified chartered accountant, Bilimoria launched Cobra Beer when it became clear to him that Britain needed a smoother, less gassy lager that appealed to both ale drinkers and lager drinkers alike, and that complemented all types of cuisine.
Bilimoria said that "the (British) lager was too fizzy, too harsh and too bloating. It meant that I couldn't eat or drink as much as I would like. At the same time, I found real ale to be great in a pub, but too bitter and heavy with food. So I came up with the idea of creating a beer with the refreshment of a lager, but with the smoothness of an ale."
Although originally intended to be named 'Panther', the name was changed to 'Cobra' when a focus group found the latter more appealing. The first shipment of Cobra was imported to the UK from the Bangalore-based Mysore Brewery in 1990, at the start of the early 1990s recession, however, large consumer demand and increased import costs prompted Bilimoria to move production to the United Kingdom in the mid-1990s.
Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Cobra experienced double-digit growth. In 2005, the company's premium pilsner, King Cobra, was launched. Brewed at Belgium's Rodenbach Brewery, it is currently the only pilsner-style lager to be fermented in the bottle.
However, business losses accelerated in 2007 with total losses for the trading year to August 2007 reaching £13.6m on an annual turnover of around £45m. As of 2008, the business was approximately £26 million in debt and had borrowings from venture capitalists attracting interest at a daily compound rate of 15%. Despite this, Cobra continued to accelerate its sales growth. Cobra's half year sales figures for the period from 1 August 2008 to 31 January 2009 showed growth in volume terms of 21%.
It is this strategy of growing sales, instead of concentrating on the "bottom line" which may have caused the company's financial problems. On Friday 29 May 2009 the company went into administration, owing an estimated £75 million to suppliers. On the same day, the business was rescued through the formation of the Cobra Beer Partnership Limited, a joint-venture between Molson Coors and Karan Bilimoria, with Molson Coors owning 50.1% of the shares and Bilimoria appointed as Chairman.
As of 2014, Cobra Beer has continued to experience increased sales - albeit at a slower place that it experienced during the 1990s. Since the formation of the joint venture with Molson Coors, growth has averaged between 7% and 10% in terms of year-on-year expansion and in 2013 had turn-over of £59.1 million and profit before tax of £7.7 million.
As of November 2014, Cobra currently has a market share of over 98% of all licensed Indian restaurants within the United Kingdom.
In February 2014, Cobra launched a new advertising campaign with the Farringdon-based agency, Karmarama. Entitled, 'Meet the Boss' - the advertisement was well received in a number of areas, including being dubbed 'Ad of the Week' by the communications agency, Stratton Craig. In the first three months of the campaign, Cobra saw 23% growth in volume sales in the off-trade, and a 77% volume growth in bars over a similar period.
The Cobra Beer range currently consists of three beers:
Cobra Premium (4.8%), an extra-smooth premium beer and is currently sold in 330ml and 620ml bottles. A draft version (4.3%) is also available.
Cobra Zero (0.0%), a non-alcoholic version of Cobra Premium, sold since 2005.
King Cobra (7.5%), a double fermented Pilsner-style lager.
- "COBRA - Indian Lager Beer". TheDrinkShop.com. 2010-03-02. Retrieved 2010-10-03.
- "Molson Coors buys 51% stake in Cobra". The Times of India. 24 June 2011. Retrieved 14 November 2011.
- "Burton becomes the new home of Cobra beer". Burton Mail. 2010-04-08. Retrieved 2011-11-27.
- "About Molson Coors Cobra India". Retrieved 27 November 2014.
- Interview with Karan Bilimoria on BBC News website 6 August 2014 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-28439834
- Bilimoria, Karan (2007). Bottled for Business: The Less Gassy Guide to Entrepreneurship (1st ed.). Chichester: Wiley. pp. 46–49. ISBN 978-1-84112-726-2.
- "Exclusive: Mongoose bites Cobra". Brewers' Guardian. 5 July 2010. Retrieved 12 August 2012.
- Bilimoria, Karan (2007). Bottled for Business: The Less Gassy Guide to Entrepreneurship (1st ed.). Chichester: Wiley. pp. 99–102. ISBN 978-1-84112-726-2.
- "King Cobra". www.cobrabeer.com. Molson Coors. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
- Bilimoria, Karan (2007). Bottled for Business: The Less Gassy Guide to Entrepreneurship (1st ed.). Chichester: Wiley. pp. 91–92. ISBN 978-1-84112-726-2.
- Source: Annual Report and Accounts posted with Companies House in May 2008
- source: ACNielsen 2009
- Goodman, Matthew (2009-05-31). "Cobra beer saved from administration at last gasp". The Times. London. Retrieved 2010-04-30.
- Smale, Will. "How Cobra Beer regained its sparkle". news.bbc.co.uk. BBC News. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
- "Ad of the week: Cobra Beer – Meet the Boss". www.strattoncraig.co.uk/. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
- Shields, Mike. "Cobra awarded gold by Monde Selection". www.fdiforum.net/. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
- Bilimoria, Karan (2007). Bottled for business : the less gassy guide to entrepreneurship. Capstone Publ. Ltd. (a Wiley Company). ISBN 978-1-84112-726-2.