Thwaites' smash

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hit With both serving up explosive deliveries, it was a match made in heaven. TONY HALSTEAD reports on the linkup between Lancaster Bomber and Andrew...


With both serving up explosive deliveries, it was a match made in heaven. TONY HALSTEAD reports on the linkup between Lancaster Bomber and Andrew Flintoff

These are busy days for the brand-image builders at Daniel Thwaites. It's game on to hoist one of its up-and-coming big-name beers onto a national platform.

Brewery bosses are pushing their weight and not an inconsiderable amount of cash behind premium cask ale Lancaster Bomber.

The Lancashire brewer has engaged a heavyweight sporting star cricketing ace Andrew Flintoff to support an adventurous marketing and advertising campaign. And weeks into the partnership, all the signs are that Flintoff and Lancaster Bomber are hitting it off together.

In days gone by Thwaites was content to play to a local audience, but times are now changing and the company is seeking wider recognition on a far bigger beer stage.

Volumes at the Star Brewery are now running at well over 300,000 barrels per year, but Thwaites wants to do far more than simply make up the numbers in the brewing industry's Premier League.

The 'signing up of Lancashire cricket star Flintoff has been carefully-tailored to capitalise on this summer's England-Australia Ashes series.

It is hoped that role model Flintoff acknowledged as representing all that is best in English cricket will soon become inextricably linked with all that is best in classic English cask ale.

Thwaites is utilising the UK brewing industry's campaign to improve the image of beer. But it is not simply image marketing that is exercising the minds of brewery bosses. More subtle techniques are now at play to win over the hearts and minds of the drinking public.

A quality care programme from 'cellar to seller will seek to preach quality at every stage of the beer experience. Smaller brands within the portfolio will also enjoy a re-launch and other new brands will be introduced. In addition, Thwaites wants to launch a concerted campaign to introduce more women to beer by pushing female-friendly badged glasses into the trade and launching new 'beer with food menus into selected Thwaites managed pubs.

'It's going to be a busy and exciting summer for Thwaites, says sales director Brian Jenkins. 'The combination of Lancaster Bomber and Andrew Flintoff will bring together two big hitters at the top of their game. We think Freddie will be a perfect ambassador for Lancaster Bomber during what is bound to be a memorable Test series.

Lancaster Bomber is Thwaites' fastest growing beer brand, developing big sales in the pubco and free trade beer markets. 'We have great hopes that Bomber can become a national beer brand and we have probably launched our biggest and most expensive marketing exercise ever to help it achieve that status, says Jenkins.

The 4.1% abv ale was originally owned by former Lancashire brewer Mitchells of Lancaster. When Mitchells opted out of brewing a few years back Thwaites seized the chance and bought the brand.

'We knew we could make a success of Bomber, but, like any brewer, we needed to market it properly and give it good support, Jenkins explains.

'Sales had already been going well up to the beginning of spring, but taking on Andrew Flintoff was the final piece of this year's jigsaw. We want to get to a position where Lancaster Bomber and Andrew Flintoff are recognised as two of Lancashire's best-known exports.

Thwaites is also busy with its other brands including German premium beer Warsteiner, which is playing a major role in winning key free-trade accounts for the company, notably in the south of England.

'Drinkers are a discerning bunch who know it is easy to find a pub selling one of the big national lager brands, but, claims Jenkins, 'they are now increasingly looking for something different and Warsteiner provides just that it's a quality product that helps give outlets an essential point of difference.

In the mood for food

Thwaites is flagging up the 'Beer With Food message, with a new beer menu being introduced in selected managed houses.

The menu lists seven bottled ales and lagers from the brewery portfolio, with tasting notes and tips on what foods they best marry up with.

The menu recommends that König Ludwig Weiss beer goes best with spicy dishes, pizza or fresh fruit.

Premium lager Warsteiner is listed as a perfect match to savour with starters, chicken and game, while premium Daniel's Hammer ale is said to go down well with chicken or pasta.

There is also a listing for Thwaites Lancashire Strong Ale, which is linked to steak pie, roast dinners and even desserts.

Thwaites pub staff have been trained to discuss beer and food selections with customers. 'We hope to be able to open up a new world for diners and convince them beer really can be a perfect partner, says sales director Brian Jenkins.

Making brands more relevant

Thwaites plans a flurry of brand activity over the summer, which will see re-launches and repositioning of a number of its beers.

Thwaites plans to reposition standard house lager Kaltenberg and introduce new dark beer König Ludwig Dunkel. Leading volume brand Thwaites Smooth will also re-appear with a fresh new look to help it make further advances as one of the UK's top regional smooth beers. König Ludwig Dunkel, a 5.1% abv beer, made its first appearance five weeks ago and is being stocked in selected outlets.

'We have to make beer brands more relevant to drinkers and give them more market appeal, explains sales director Brian Jenkins. 'In some ways we are going for less volume and more accent on quality in a bid to make beer attractive to a new audience.

'We are very conscious at Thwaites that we have got to make beer more interesting but if we do not test and experiment [with] new brands and [with] how we promote them, we will not extend their appeal, he says. 'We will never lose sight of our traditional brands, which will always play a big role here, but while you look after tradition you really have to have one eye on the future.

Working on women

Thwaites says it wants to get more women drinking beer both ale and lager but believes current pub glassware is proving a major turn-off for female drinkers.

'We have got to match glasses to women drinkers, but quite frankly you get embarrassed at some of the containers people expect them to use, says sales director Brian Jenkins. 'We are going for more badged glassware and interestingly-designed glasses to make beer more appealing. Sticking half a bitter or lager in a standard glass is simply not good enough any more, and the industry has to change its ideas.

Jenkins says he suspects some women drinkers are getting bored with wine and want to experiment. 'We have to be more aggressive and challenging and make more choice available, he maintains. 'If we can recruit more new people to start drinking beer we will have started the fightback.

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