Simon George recently joined the business from Magners, and he has pledged to spark “sustainable growth” in “an iconic beer brand” by diversifying away from the core brand.
He told OLN: “In the off-trade we have a real opportunity around Budvar in cans. We have spent £3.5 million on the canning line to revamp it.
“Cans for us are up 47% in the last year, driven by a really good performance of the 33cl can.
“Sainsbury’s has taken that 6x33cl and it’s doing really well. It’s a point of difference.”
George also singled out non-alcoholic beer as an opportunity. He said although Budvar’s non-alcoholic offering did not have good distribution it was was “an excellent proposition” and “a huge opportunity” for the brand.
He added: “Of all the non-alcoholic beers in the world this one actually tastes like a beer. That category could do with a refresh.
“We also have a strong opportunity to develop the 7.5% abv Premier Select.”
George admitted that this category is under intense pressure from government, but said he hoped the authorities would spare premium brands from initiatives like Reducing the Strength, which sees retailers encouraged to strip their shelves of beer and cider with an abv above 6.5%.
George added: “Beers like Chimay, Leffe and Duvel are fine beers, sold at premium price points – they just happen to have a high abv.
“We would hope that any government focus on this takes an understanding of the premium end of the market. We would hope that the super-premium, quality products like Henry Westons Vintage, Budvar Premier Select and Duvel are recognised for what they are.”
George believes that interest in beer and its provenance is at an all-time high and that Budvar can cash in on that.
“We know there is a huge consumer trend where people want to know where their stuff comes from,” he said. “They want trust in their product. Take horsemeat.”
He added: “We are looking for sustainable growth rather than ridiculous growth.
“Our brand is a fairly specialist one. The brewery is nearly at capacity. So it’s not in our interests to chase value-eroding deals that you see at certain times of the year.
“It’s about keeping it special and engaged with consumers.
“We have seen some Czech brands in the 12 packs in the three-for-£20. That’s just ripping value out of the category.
“It’s about sustainable growth for us. We are a business with a long-term view.”