IN 12 months those left standing in the Australian beverage sector will be talking about how 2009 was the year in which everything changed.
Ownership of the two biggest softdrink makers, Coca-Cola Amatil and Schweppes, is set to change hands, while Foster's may make a company-changing decision on the fate of its wine division and arch-rival Lion Nathan is looking to diversify into non-alcoholic beverages.
Meanwhile, global wine and spirit giant Constellation -- owner of the Hardy's and Leasingham brands -- is downsizing its Australian operations and overall domestic wine production is running well ahead of demand, creating a seemingly bottomless lake of unsold plonk that can only be sold at fire-sale prices.
Just to raise the stakes, the economic downturn now threatens to derail the long-running "premiumisation" trend that has seen drinkers switch to ever-more expensive fluids.
As the biggest player in Australian booze, it is fitting that Foster's will get the ball rolling, with chairman David Crawford pledging to make an announcement on the fate of the wine division by mid-February.
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