The core brand is growing among 18 to 24-year-olds and the over-50s, but it is seeing sales slide among its core group 25 to 49-year-old drinkers.
It hopes the new ale will capitalise on the burgeoning golden ale category – which is the UK’s fastest-growing ale sector (Nielsen, year to April 2015) – and promised that this would be merely the start of a range of new John Smith’s variants that will increase in complexity.
Innovation director Sam Fielding said: “Classic ale is a looking tired. John Smith’s is 250 years old but that doesn’t mean it can’t innovate and move with the times and take trends working in other sectors of the market and make them accessible to consumers.
“John Smith’s golden ale is a lightly hopped, refreshing golden ale, at 4% abv, which is a bridge between lager and ale. We will introduce slightly more challenging variants as we move forward.
“I think the sky is the limit for John Smith’s.”
It will be available in three SKUs: a 50cl bottle, a 4 x 50cl can pack and a 10 x 44cl can pack. There will also be special promotions and on-shelf POS available to retailers. It launches on August 3 and will be priced “in line with other mainstream golden ales”
Martin Porter, managing director for the off-trade at Heineken, said: “With over 250 years of brewing credentials, John Smith’s is an institution in the beer world and loved by millions of ale fans. We know from our research that some consumers are looking for lighter styles of ale that deliver refreshment and depth of flavour.
“We’re confident that the new, refreshing and premium style of John Smith’s golden ale will deliver this, driving excitement in the classic ale aisle and reappraisal of the John Smith’s brand.”