Foster's BeerThe Foster’s slogan might say: “Australian for Beer”. But if the latest suitor in the series of rumoured potential owners has its way, Foster’s will no longer be Australian-owned.

In June, British-based brewing behemoth SABMiller launched a A$4.90 per-share A$9.5 billion takeover bid. The takeover attempt failed but speculation is rife the world’s second-biggest brewer will be back to sweeten its deal.

Foster’s has been brewing beer since 1887. With such a long history in a young nation, and a marketing campaign built on true-blue Aussie accents, sunny beaches, larrikin humour and bikini-clad girls, it might be natural to anticipate a backlash from Australians if Foster’s was to fall into foreign hands.

The funny thing is – and one of the reasons that a takeover could pass without too much fuss – not many Australians actually drink Foster’s lager. Only 100 million litres of the beer, with the distinctive blue and gold logo, is imbibed in Australia each year versus nearly 682 million litres in Britain.

Nevertheless, most Australians know that Foster’s is part of Carlton United Breweries, which brews the more popular VB, Carlton Draft and Pure Blonde labels.

“The Australian association works for Foster’s overseas because the Australian lifestyle appeals to consumers – it’s a point of difference within the market,” says Australian School of Business marketing lecturer Dean Wilkie.

“Locally, many brands try to create an emotional connection with consumers by using their Australian heritage. ‘I am a proud Australian, Brand X is a proud Australian, so I will buy their product.’”

However, such a positioning is ineffective for Foster’s because many beer brands have created stronger connections with consumers through being associated their state (for example, the XXXX brand and Queensland) or their city (Melbourne Bitter) or their lifestyle (VB and the blue-collar worker), observes Wilkie.

If Foster’s ownership goes overseas, it will join a swathe of Australian “iconic” brands that are no longer locally owned. However, Foster’s will still be able to maintain its Australian association, provided the new owners continue to invest in it, Wilkie says. “Think of Vegemite, Arnott’s, Holden and from the beer industry, Tooheys.” Their investors are now in faraway lands, but they “still maintain a very strong association of being Australian”.

“Most consumers have probably experienced an international takeover of one of their favourite brands,” says Wilkie. “Therefore consumers will be less reactive to Foster’s being taken over by SABMiller. You could also argue that Foster’s ‘Australian’ image is mainly associated with the Foster’s beer brand itself.” And that image in recent years has lived on outside of the nation, rather than in it.

In the end does it really matter if Foster’s remains Australian-owned? “It won’t matter to consumers as long as the new owners do not mess with their brands,” says Wilkie.