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Client Spotlight – The Hofmeister Brewing Company

Article posted: 19th January 2018

First up in our new Client Spotlight feature is The Hofmeister Brewing Company, which is behind the successful Photo of Hofmeister Helles lager and brand productsresurrection of the popular 1980s Hofmeister lager brand.

In the last 12 months, the team has relaunched the brand back into the UK market after a 13-year hiatus, importantly with a very different and much improved beer. This time Hofmeister IS brewed in Bavaria, in a small fourth generation brewery. It is a Helles lager brewed according to the 502-year-old German Purity Law, the Reinheitsgebot. Their high-quality lager was crowned the Best Lager 2017/18 in the prestigious IWSC Beer Awards in October 2017 becoming the first and only lager to be awarded 5 stars. Judges said it was a “superior example, setting the standard” in the category.

Now being stocked in over 150 outlets across the UK, it’s been quite an achievement for a brand that just 12 months ago had zero customers, zero credentials and only incorporated in December 2015.

The relaunch was the culmination of some 20 years of creating alcohol gift products for major retailers and drinks producers through sister company Brand Packaging Solutions, also a McBrides client. “We had always quietly talked about one day having a business, or a brand, of our own,” says Hofmeister CEO Richard Longhurst.

The entrepreneurial spirit kicked in when the team – which includes Spencer Chambers, David Farrington and John Byrne – found out in mid-2015 that there might be a chance that Heineken, Hofmeister’s then registered owner, might allow them to do precisely that.

“Breathing fresh life into brands was very much our core skill during our gifting days, constantly coming up with new ideas and concepts to revive the fortunes of existing drinks brands”, Richard explains. “We knew and could see the potential that Hofmeister had. In its heyday, admittedly as an unashamedly high volume, pile it high standard lager brand, Hofmeister was big business. Launched by Scottish Courage in 1977, it had grown by the late eighties to become one of the UK’s Top Five beer brands.

“What’s more, George the bear – the brand’s famous moniker – had become a household figure in his own right during the 80s and 90s, so there was a legacy we could build upon. The chance to bring back a once much-loved brand and re-invent it for beer drinkers today was such an incredible opportunity.”

However, the real challenge was producing a quality beer for today’s discerning palates: “Nostalgia and an affectionate nod to the old Hofmeister bear might get the initial attention of buyers old enough to remember it, but they would quickly lose interest if there was no real substance to back it up. So, we decided to literally ‘follow the bear’ back to his roots and that took us to Bavaria and the heart of Germany’s illustrious brewing community.”

The team identified Privatbrauerei Schweiger as the right Bavarian brewer capable of producing genuine Helles lager – and it recruited Zoe Howorth to bring her marketing skills honed during her tenure as marketing director at the Coca-Cola Company. They haven’t looked back since.

Richard says that the biggest success to date has been turning the idea and vision into a functioning business and building up a network of investors, advisers and business partners who can be proud of the product and brand they have helped to relaunch: “Relaunching a brand that had been hibernating for 13 years and that was worth £100m in 1983, has been an incredible challenge and one that has taken dedication and teamwork to pull off – but it has been fun and worthwhile.”

With just over two years since incorporating and a little over 12 months in operation, the brand’s recent awards speak for themselves. “Coupled with the publicity, the impact on trade has been phenomenal and Hofmeister Helles is being well-received by British beer drinkers of all ages”, says Richard.

We’ll drink to that!

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