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Who Owns The Brewery – Part 3: Coles and Woolworths

Do you know who owns and produces the “craft beer” you are drinking?

As with all businesses, not all is as it seems as there are many breweries promoting themselves as craft breweries making craft beers.

To provide a guide to the every increasingly difficult landscape of who owns the brewery, we have produced a series of guides to help understand “Who Owns The Brewery”.

In Part 3 we look at the two big supermarket chains, Coles and Woolworths, who are both heavily involved in the sale of beer and alcohol in Australia.  They have also more recently become involved in the production of a number of “corporate craft beer” brands.

The Parent Companies

Wesfarmers, based in Perth,  is the parent company of Coles.

Who Owns The Brewery - ColesStarted as a WA farmers’ cooperative in 1914, they have grown into one of Australia’s largest conglomerate companies with interests in “supermarkets, liquor, hotels and convenience stores; home improvement; office supplies; department stores; and an industrials division with businesses in chemicals, energy and fertilisers, industrial and safety products and coal.

In 2001, the company became a freely traded company on the stock exchange and started to acquire a number of other businesses, including, in 2007, the Coles Group for around A$22billion. This included the majority of the alcohol related companies.

Woolworths Australia started as a variety store in Sydney in 1924, and has grown into the second largest company in Australia.  They are not linked to the range of Woolworths companies overseas.

Who Owns The Brewery - WoolworthsThey opened their first supermarket in 1960 in conjunction with a national expansion. The same year they started to sell liquor. In 1998, the company acquired Dan Murphys before starting BWS in 2001.  Due to the Queensland liquor licencing laws, ALH Group was started in 2005 to enable the company to expand their bottleshops.

These two companies are the two largest Australian companies by revenue.

“Craft Brands”

Coles Group has three main “craft brands”:

  • Steamrail
  • Lorry Boys
  • 3 Pub Circus

Together with some new beers appearing under the Liquorland brand.

Woolworths have two main “craft brands”:

  • Sail & Anchor
  • John Boston

As well as a 24% stake in Gage Roads Brewing who produce these craft brands.

Other Alcohol related businesses

Both companies have significant interests in the wider alcohol sales markets.

Wesfarmers own 810 liquor outlets trading under the names of :

  • Liquorland
  • 1st ChoiceLiquor Superstores
  • Vintage Cellars

They also own 92 hotels nationally.

Woolworths own 1,470 liquor outlets trading under the names of:

  • Dan Murphys
  • BWS

They also have a significant stake (75%) in the ALH Group who own 330 hotels nationally.  ALH are the largest hotel and gaming machine operator in the country.

Other Businesses

Wesfarmers own:

  • Coles supermarkets
  • BI-LO
  • Kmart
  • Officeworks
  • Target
  • Bunnings

Woolworths own:

  • Caltex
  • Big W
  • Home Timber and Hardware
  • And the recently closed Masters


These two companies have a significant stake in the sale of alcohol in Australia through their on sales outlets owning 422 hotels and their off sales outlets owning 2,280 bottle shops.  With them both now moving into producing “craft beer” they have significant duopoly power over where and when craft beer could be sold.  And with their recent entry into “craft beer brands” they now increasingly occupying shelf space in bottle shops.

With their wide range of interests you could spend your whole day spending money just in these companies.  So, if at the weekend you go out to buy food in the supermarket, get a few things for the house, fuel your car, stock up on DIY equipment, then home office supplies before having a beer in a hotel, then on the way home stock up at the bottleshop, you’ve just been spending in Coles or Woolworths companies!

In the last part in our series, Part 4, we’ll be looking at the last of the big corporate entities involved in craft beer, Asahi and CCA (Coca Cola).