Chief executive Tony Jennings left the business last week and his role will not be replaced, while Simon Warren, formerly head of off-trade multiples at Magners GB, has come in as operations director.
Warren will work alongside UK sales director Simon George and head office staff in the Czech Republic on a strategy to build up the firm’s sales in the UK.
George told OLN: “I would argue that the business has never been more buoyant. We are up to 16 UK staff now. We have taken on two more on-trade staff and one off-trade, along with dedicated social media and public relations teams.”
Budvar is outgrowing the beer category in the UK, with sales up 9% in the past year (Nielsen, 52 weeks to May 23, 2015).
George said: “We have got new distribution in Asda, range extensions in the Co-op, and 33cl cans are doing very well in Sainsbury’s. The brand is connecting well with consumers that care about quality.
“Jilly Goolden gave us a great write-up in the Daily Mail, she gave us 9/10 and said it was her favourite lager, and there is a quote from her on the shelf in Waitrose where Budvar sits.
“Asda is selling the 4x33cl pack and the 50cl original bottles. Asda has a keen world beer following and they are working to satisfy that need.
“The latest Nielsen data has Budvar growing at 11% (12 weeks to May 23, 2015) with premium lager growing at 3%.
“We believe that consumers increasingly care about where their food and drink comes from and how it’s made. We think Budvar, having only ever been brewed in Budweis, links well to that trend.”
It is also making inroads into the convenience channel.
“We are talking to a convenience operator about taking on a 4x33cl and free glass pack to offer value,” said George. “There is a big challenge there [in the convenience sector] but 26% of the trade according to Nielsen is impulse so we need to be in this market. It’s a vibrant market and there are some great operators.”
The brand is embarking on a sampling campaign that will take in 102 pubs across the country, where staff will hand out 102 free half-pints to drinkers in each venue.
It marks the 102 days it takes to make Budvar – 12 days’ brewing and 90 days’ maturation – while retro packs will also be released to celebrate the brewery’s 120th birthday this year.
Beer has been brewed on the site for hundreds of years, but the brewery was officially incorporated in 1895.
Much of its public relations focus in the past has relied on the brand’s decades-long war with AB-Inbev’s Budweiser and the various trademark battles that have ensued across the globe.
But it now feels the time is right to focus more on the taste of the beer and why it is superior to that of its rivals.
“We think it’s a great time for the brand to move on and talk to consumers about the brand,” said George. “The slogan we are using is No Shortcuts. No to compromising our unique tasting beer. No to moving our brewery from the Czech Republic. No to cheaper ingredients, no to shortening our 102-day brewing cycle – no shortcuts.”
Budweiser Budvar UK’s chairman Renata Pankova paid tribute to Jennings for a decade of service, adding: “We would like to thank Tony for his loyal service over the last ten years and we wish him well for the future.”