Budvar eyes UK expansion

Budvar plans to grow its UK off-trade business by 40% in 2013 with the help of a new £3 million canning factory in the Czech Republic.

Cans represent just 10% of Budvar’s take-home business as it has to ship tankers over to the UK, where they are canned by Thwaites brewery in Lancashire.

But from early 2013 Budvar will be canned at 33cl, 44cl and 50cl in the brewer’s Ceské Budejovice factory, making it far more economical to sell cans in the UK.

By the end of next year, they should represent 30% of its UK business.

Off-trade sales director John Whittle said: “We are aiming for a 40% increase on the previous year and we are confident we can achieve that.

“We will treble our volume on cans, which will really drive the brand forward. Some premium lagers are in cans but we see a gap in the market for retailers to sell more cans of Budvar.

“The entire brewing process takes place on-site at the Budvar factory, and the only thing done in the UK is canning.

“But canning starts at the Budvar factory in January and we will start getting UK listings for these cans around Easter.”

The off-trade lager category was down 1.3% this year (Nielsen, year to October 13) as rain hit the barbecue season and Euro 2012, while premium bottled ales and flavoured cider seized market share.

Whittle said: “It’s been the toughest year of trading since I began in the beer business 40 years ago, but we are ending on a high.

“In October and November volume sales of Budvar were up 30% on the previous year in the major multiples.

“In the cash and carries volume sales were up 5%, so it’s all quite buoyant.”

It has also recently launched a Tweet Your Receipt promotion, where drinkers take a picture of their receipt and send it to Budvar’s Twitter page in the hope of winning free beer and a trip to the Czech Republic.

“This is working too,” said Whittle. “Young people nowadays are always playing around on phones and tablets, so we are trying to put ourselves at the forefront of social media.”

Growth has been driven by Budvar’s promotion with Domino’s Pizza, where consumers can win a year’s supply of beer and pizza in an on-pack competition.

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