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Lion New Zealand Celebrates 100 Years: 10 Breweries, 100 Years, 1 Legacy

Lion New Zealand, Aotearoa’s leading beer, wine and spirits company, is celebrating its bold and ambitious origins as New Zealand Breweries.

The formation of New Zealand Breweries in 1923 stands as a significant milestone in New Zealand’s corporate and brewing history and created a nationwide entity that would become a household name and achieve international success.

Lion New Zealand’s Managing Director Craig Baldie said, “Lion is one the original Kiwi success stories and the company as we know it today began with ten of the nation’s largest breweries coming together to form New Zealand Breweries in 1923. Through the amalgamation, shares were made available to the public, and Kiwis had the opportunity to invest in the success of the brewing industry. There was a movement around the time that wanted to make beer illegal, and the investment opportunity proved that most Kiwis didn’t in fact support prohibition.

“Orchestrated by Sir Alfred Bankhart, of Campbell & Ehrenfried, the proposal brought together breweries in Christchurch, Dunedin, Port Chalmers, Wellington, Gisborne and Auckland, including the original ‘Lion’ and Captain Cook breweries on Khyber Pass Road, and Speight’s, which is the only brewery of the original ten still operating.”

New Zealand Breweries officially took on the name Lion Breweries in 1977, and today Lion operates across New Zealand, Australia and U.S.A, with the New Zealand Business operating as a subsidiary of Lion.

“The story of Lion is one of visionary leadership and continuous evolution. Former CEO Sir Douglas Myers put Lion on the international map in the ‘80s with the extraordinarily bold acquisition of Bond Brewing in Australia, which was around ten times the size of Lion in New Zealand. Lion is now headquartered in Australia, includes New Belgium, the second largest craft brewer in the United States, a premium fine wine business in North America and has shareholdings in several craft adult beverage companies.

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“In New Zealand, Lion has continued to evolve too. Our business includes breweries in Auckland, Dunedin and Upper Hutt, a winery, two coffee roasteries, and a number of hospitality venues. We make many of New Zealand’s most loved beer, wine and spirits brands, including New Zealand’s number one selling beer brand, Speight’s – 1 in every 6 beers consumed in New Zealand is Speight’s.*

“What stands out for me is Lion’s enduring focus on great brands and people. One hundred years on, the bold and entrepreneurial mindset we were founded on, endures in our culture and the way we do business today,” said Baldie.

Lion has brewed a commemorative, limited-edition, not for sale, pale ale to celebrate its 100-year milestone.

Lion made the decision to delay its 100-year celebrations to 2024 as it completed a supply chain transformation project in the latter half of 2023.

* Nielsen total beer volume in scan markets for the 12 months to 03/03/24. (On premise not included; off premise includes supermarkets, traditional liquor in scan, and Four Square.)

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