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Shandy wars - How Chandy's rivals won the day

Top Deck shandy survived until the 1990s. Shandy Bass survives to this day. What went wrong for Chandy?


Some of this is going to be pure speculation, but let’s start with some facts. Wikipedia, where we get most of our facts(!), tells us that Top Deck was around from the 1960s and that Shandy Bass was launched in 1972. There were also lots of other brands of shandy around in the UK in the 1970s and 1980s, the likes of Panda Shandy, Corona Shandy, Anglia Shandy, Sun Charm Shandy, Minster Shandy and Shandy Barrel, as well as own brand shandies from the likes of Presto, VG, Keynote (Littlewoods) and Winfield (Woolworth’s).


So how did those succeed when Chandy didn’t?


Let’s start with Shandy Bass. The clear marketing strategy with Shandy Bass was to emphasise both the brewery connection (Bass Charrington at the time the UK’s biggest brewing company) and the real beer content.

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As the vintage Shandy Bass promotional bar towel shown below demonstrates Shandy Bass was said to be “the true beer shandy”, an emphasis that continues to this day, with the current Shandy Bass can design, shown here on the left, bearing the legend “made with real Bass beer”.


Chandy marketing didn’t emphasise either of these things. Chandy’s brewery connection with Whitbread was all but buried. The Whitbread hind head’s logo (without the word “Whitbread”) appeared on Chandy bottles, but that was about it. Chandy was never marketed as Whitbread Chandy. Nor did Chandy advertising emphasise the beer content. Rather what was emphasised was the fact it wouldn’t get you drunk -“The safe drink for thirsty drivers” etc., marketing aimed at adult drinkers.  

And the tactics that worked better turned out to be Shandy Bass’s, perhaps because a big part of the market was those too young to buy beer who were impressed with the brewery brand connection and the fact that it contained real beer, making them feel all big and grown up in a way that drinking a brand associated with a cartoon lion might not do.

We think the end of Chandy was directly related to the decision to emulate the marketing success of Shandy Bass. In around 1975 Whitbread Shandy was launched, the brand explicitly including the brewery name and emphasising that with the slogan “There’s now a name for shandy drinkers” (see front and reverse of the 1975 beer mat pictured on the right).


Whitbread Shandy was either a rebranding of Chandy or a replacement for it. Both drinks were credited to the same address in the mid-1970s. The latest Chandy bottle labels carried the postcode E6 4LF, as did the earliest Whitbread Shandy cans, then home to R. White and Sons Limited and now home to Britvic Soft Drinks, the current owners of the Shandy Bass brand!


Whatever its merits, Whitbread Shandy failed to match the success of Shandy Bass and it just became an also-ran in the shandy market, disappearing in time along with many other brands. Whitbread Shandy’s packaging design and marketing certainly weren’t particularly inspired and even we can’t bring ourselves to be bothered to collect Whitbread Shandy items!  


Another marketing trick that Chandy appears to have missed was, by concentrating on the selling of shandy in bottles from the likes of pubs and clubs, to have ignored the market for selling shandy in cans from newsagents and sweetshops, a market that undoubtedly existed in the 1970s and 1980s (see all the different shandy cans pictured at the bottom of this page). Chandy was available in cans at some points during the 1960s and 1970s, but for whatever reason it appears not to have been an area they focused much attention on, leaving the market for selling shandy in cans open to others.


Two brands warrant special mention for succeeding in that market, Barr’s and Top Deck.  

Both brands didn’t restrict themselves to just shandy, but produced a range of canned “non-alcoholic” (less than 2% proof) drinks.


In 1969 Barr offered Prize Shandy (lemonade and beer), Prize Iceborg (lime cordial and lager), Prize Zhivago (vodka flavour lime drink) and Prize Tim Collins (gin flavour lemon drink), all sold in cans, like the one pictured leftmost here, decorated with pictures of swimwear-clad young couples frolicking in the sun. Later Barr’s can designs (one of which from the 1970s is pictured here) were less inspiring, but Barr Shandy is still available in cans to this day (as pictured on the extreme right).


Top Deck was produced by Idris Ltd and it can be seen how the classic Top Deck can design shown at the top of this page was based on the earlier 1960s can design for Idris Shandy as shown on the extreme left. The Top Deck range comprised lemonade shandy (yellow can), limeade and lager (green can) and cider shandy (orange can). The brand benefited from a Royal Appointment – we expect the Queen could be regularly found swigging a can in the 1970s! – and was big enough to enjoy its own TV advertising (something as far as we’re aware Chandy never had).


© 2014-2024 Lewis Williams

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