Peruvians to drink millennium brew

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LIMA--Peruvians will get a chance to ring in the New Year with a beer designed specifically for the yearend celebration.

The Backus & Johnston Union of Peruvian Brewers has launched a limitededition brew pegged to the millennium festivities.

Introduced in late November, "Backus Special Celebration 2000" will be on the market for about two months. The product will be sold in only one size, 620 ml bottles, and tastes different than other beers brewed by the company, according to a company spokesman.

Advertising for the new product will be as limited as its run. Backus & Johnston's public relations department is handling the advertising in-house.

Advertising will include only a few newspaper ads featuring the product and displays in supermarkets and other sales outlets.

The launch comes at one of the bleakest moments in years for Peruvianbrewers. Per capita beer consumption in Peru has been falling for more than a decade, dropping from 42 liters in 1987 to 24 liters today. Brewers blame the country's on-going recession for part of the decline, but say government policies are the main culprit. An excise tax on beer increases the price of a 12-bottle case by nearly 110%. Peru's excise tax onbeer is the third highest in the world, following Kenya and South Korea.

Peru's two major brewers, Backus & Johnston and Cervesur, maker of theCusquena and Arequipena brands, have, nevertheless, attracted international attention this year with Venezuela's Polar purchasing 8% of Backus & Johnston stock recently. In addition, the Union of Chilean Brewers bought about 6% of the company's shares in August.

Brazil's giant Brahma is rumored to be interested in Cervesur, whichcurrently holds about a fifth of Peru's beer market.

Copyright November 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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