Two former Greene King and Ei Group chiefs have put money into the revived Hofmeister brand and believe it has the potential to be a major player in world beers.
Back to its roots: the revamped Hofmeister is made in Bavaria
The revamped Hofmeister, brought back in 2017, is a premium, slow-brewed, Helles lager from the forests of Bavaria. Entrepreneurs Spencer Chambers and Richard Longhurst bought the brand, dormant since 2004, from Heineken, and took it back to its Bavarian roots, finding a local, traditional brewer, capable of making a beer they could be proud of.
Now the business has captured the attention of Kim Francis and Euan Venters, who, between them, have spent decades selling and promoting hundreds of beers during their times working for Scottish & Newcastle, Heineken, Greene King, Enterprise Inns, and the Ei Group.
Kim was most recently managing director for Ei Group, in charge of running 1,900 pubs in London and the South East, while Euan was managing director of Greene King’s brewing and brands until 2013.
At the height of its fame and sales in the 1980s and 1990s, when Hofmeister was the fourth biggest beer brand in the UK, its advertising was based around George The Bear who, it was claimed, had come from the forests of Bavaria. In reality the beer was made in the UK as a high-volume, low-ABV mainstream lager.
New investors: Euan Venters (left) and Kim Francis
The new Hofmeister is a premium 5% Helles lager made in accordance with the German Reinheitsgebot beer purity law that dates back to 1516 and means it can only use three local ingredients (mineral water, barley and hops).
Next month there will be two new brands in the portfolio: Hofmeister Weisse, a traditional Bavarian wheat beer at 5.1% ABV; and Hofmeister Ultra Low, a 0.5% ABV Bavarian Helles lager made with the same local mineral water, barley, and Hallertau hops.
Kim and Euan have not just invested in the brand, but will be taking an active role in helping to develop it, with Euan focused on building Hofmeister’s brand credentials, while Kim lends his expertise to how it targets and grows its distribution.
Kim said he was intrigued by the new-look Hofmeister when he came across it at a trade show last year. “I first tasted the beer and thought it was amazing. Then I talked to Richard and Spencer about their plans for the brand and could see what an enormous opportunity this was. They have a beer, a brand and a plan that can make Hofmeister the most compelling beer brand in the market.”
Venters said: “Richard and Spencer have done a fabulous job taking it to where it is. It’s now a case of evolving its brand positioning and distribution. Hofmeister already has such strong brand awareness and affection, which usually costs millions to get, and we now have the authenticity as well. We think it will be a huge success.”
The key now is to grow a distribution strategy, building on London and the South East. It will aim to position Hofmeister in the top specialist retail and on-trade outlets with a target of being in 1,200 to 1,400 of the top bars, restaurants, and hotels over the next four years, with sales of around £10 million. As part of this strategy it believes it can also attract more of the multiple and national players to list it.
Kim said: “I have a smile on my face every time we have a meeting. There are a 100 reasons why Spencer and Richard should not have done what they did in bringing Hofmeister back. But now they have, I am absolutely delighted to be part of a team with a brand from the best beer region in the world, and which is 100% British owned.”
Euan added: “I feel lucky and privileged to be part of such a positive entrepreneurial story. This is a very clever iconic brand, whose product is sourced from a brilliant Bavarian brewery, with British ingenuity bringing it all together. We can each add something and we’re having such great fun working together.”