THE head of Molson Coors in Scotland has underlined the brewer's ambition to shake up the beer scene north of the Border after its Carling brand rose to command its biggest ever share of the Scottish lager market.

Carling, the UK's biggest selling lager, became Scotland's number two by volume after growing by 22 per cent in 2014, buoyed by growing customer numbers and increasing its rate of sale in outlets.

It was the only top five standard lager to grow in a market which declined by two per cent, climbing to take a 8.7 per cent of total lager market in Scotland, data by industry analyst CGA found.

Carling's rise up the lager charts has come more than a decade after its high-profile launch into the market as shirt sponsor of Rangers and Celtic.

It underlines the continuing thirst for mainstream lager among drinkers in Scotland, in spite of the burgeoning craft beer movement.

Hugo Mills, the executive hired from Gruppo Campari to head Molson Coors in Scotland a year ago, said the brand's heavyweight push into Scotland had given it a "high awareness" among drinkers.

Now he intends to build on that by taking a new approach to the way brewers interact with publicans.

Mr Mills said: "We're trying to break away from the traditional model that I think other brewers have deployed in Scotland, and set ourselves out to be a little different.

"My feeling is that the beer market in Scotland has been led by traditionalists for many years.

"The industry is now in exciting period of transition, the craft movement is a massive benefit to everybody and something I would like to continue.

"For me, in terms of how we structure ourselves, it's much more about giving the best value now to our customers in the marketplace, and giving them a resource they probably never had."

Mr Mills said several factors are driving the momentum on Carling. He claimed that, while other brewers are scaling back investment in the on-trade, Molson Coors is continuing to support licensees with glassware and business building mechanics.

He noted that its own research has found Carling is finding favour with 18 to 24 year olds who "don't aspire to drink what their dad drank", with the brand also benefiting by being priced in outlets as an affordable alternative to market leader Tennent's.

Perhaps more significantly, Carling has been aided by two key commercial arrangements.

Molson Coors has been steadily picking up customers in Scotland thanks to a partnership with satellite broadcaster BSkyB, under which publicans receive discounts on the cost of showing live football in return for becoming a customer of the brewer.

Customers who stock two Molson Coors brands are entitled to 20 per cent off their Sky bill, with the discount rising to 30 per cent for those listing three. Carling must be one of the beers stocked.

Given the continued importance of live football as a driver of footfall for pubs, and the costs involved in installing Sky, it would appear to be an attractive offer for the licensee.

"That has proven to be a real game-changer for us in getting more and more customers to work with us," said Mr Mills, adding: "The Sky deal's being going for about two years - that's when the momentum has really started to come through."

Mr Mills said Coors' customer relationships are also benefiting from its partnership with Matthew Clark, now the brewer's wholesale partner Scotland.

In freeing up the Scottish operation from wholesale activity, Mr Mills said it has allowed his team to focus more on building its brands and its customer relationships.

Coors' customers in Scotland can expect to receive a call from a Molson Coors representative every four weeks, he noted, claiming the call rate is unmatched in the sector.

"That is a big message when on the other side you are seeing your competitors withdrawing people and moving into more of a wholesale-led operation," Mr Mills said.

"Traditionally, they would have seen a rep who homes through the door, takes an order, collects the cash and heads off. We're trying to employ much more of a trusted adviser approach."

And Molson Coors, which is aiming to add to its 26-strong Scottish headcount by hiring more field sales staff this year, is aiming to strengthen those links further after making two key hires.

The company, whose Scottish base is at Livingston Football Club's stadium, has recently taken on a dedicated beer specialist, Julia Bone, who is currently undertaking a beer sommelier course. Ms Bone will work with outlets on their beer range and how to maximising sales.

Her arrival comes as interest in craft beer peaks in Scotland, a trend Coors looks to capitalise on with its own range. That includes Doom Bar, the award-winning from the Sharps Brewery in Cornwall it acquired three years ago, and beers from its Franciscan Well brewery in Cork.

Molson Coors also highlights the opportunity in so-called world beers, offering customers Cobra, Grolsch, and Coors Fine Light, the beer advertised with ironic humour by Jean-Claude Van Damme.

While standard lager still accounts for the 70 per cent of sales in Scotland, Mr Mills said "everything is changing in beer".

"I still think most outlets, most pubs don't are still struggling to quite understand what that means for them, and how to do then communicate that to their customers.

"We can't take every pub in Scotland to [Coors' Beer Academy in] Burton, but if you have a dedicated resource in Scotland they can come to you."

Coors has recently hired a consumer insight expert to keep the brewer informed of shifting consumer tastes.