Euan Venters has joined the Hofmeister board and hopes to be able to share his wide-ranging experience working in consumer goods and the brewing and pub business in launching and developing major household brands.

In the music business you can judge how good a record producer is by the quality of the acts they have worked with in their career. It’s the same for producers in film, or theatre.

You can also apply the same logic when assessing the credentials and the experience of a senior drinks business executive. What are the brands, the products, the best-selling lines they have worked on in their career?

Which is where Euan Venters, the new Hofmeister board member and director, really comes into his own thanks to a long track record of working with, helping to launch, promote and build some of the biggest household name brands both in drinks, and across a number of different consumer goods sectors.

It’s what has attracted him to work with the Hofmeister team and help share those experiences in re-building the credentials of the famous Hofmeister name and introducing the new look brand - and beer - to new audiences as well as re-engaging with those that remember the beer from its initial glory days in the 1980s.

Fosters success

Venters certainly knows what’s required to take a beer brand from the drawing board and make it one of the biggest brands in the sector. He was part of the team, for example, that first launched Fosters, the now iconic Australian beer brand, to the UK, during his time working with Watney Mann and Truman Brewers.

“It was 1981 and we were looking for somewhere in the world, outside of Germany, that the British consumer would accept drinking a quality beer from that we could also have some fun with. That’s what took us to Australia and the idea of working with Australian comedian Paul Hogan. It worked and became the biggest selling beer brand in the UK,” recalls Venters.

Closer to Hofmeister’s roots he also helped Holsten Pils fly up the beer charts as one of the first premium imported lagers - from Germany - on the back of its famous TV advertising featuring first Donald Pleasance and then comedian Griff Rhys Jones and the various “Sugar turns to Alcohol Holsten Pils Productions”

(Here’s one from The Great Escape)

“Every brand is different and you have to get the right connection with your target customer base,” explains Venters.

There is much, he says, in the brand credentials of the new revamped Hofmeister, as an authentic Bavarian Helles lager, with the quality German brewing values of Holsten Pils.

“It’s now incredibly authentic and that is what really appealed to me,” he says. “We now have all the brand positioning around the German brewing purity laws which makes it very special.”

Rejuvenating brands

He can also share his experience in rejuvenating old brands and reinventing them for a new customer base. During his long career he was able to work on a number of what are now major household brands from Ski yogurts to Vaseline.

He is particularly proud of the work he did helping to completely re-position the Durex brand from what had been a straight, family planning brand, to the everyday lifestyle brand we are familiar with now.

He remembers being thrown into the deep end for what was “my first leadership role on a brand of that size”. Up to then Durex had very much had the market to itself, but in 1987 it was caught out completely with the launch of the Mates contraception brand from Virgin that transformed the sector with its much cheaper price position and edgy, youth advertising. Euan knew that a new approach was needed and from a standing start it took 25% of the market within six months, even running the first advert for a condom on British TV in 1987.

“We invested hugely in promoting the brand to younger people and turned its image from protection to fun,” says Venters.

He was also part of the team that introduced the first Durex vending machines into pubs and nightclubs and worked with the major supermarket chains to sell them as part of a normal grocery shop.

“We wanted to make it more of an everyday purchase. We were able to get the market share back up to 95%,” he adds.

Then he took on the Radox brand and helped re-position it as a health and beauty product where all the emphasis was on relaxation, a brand that could help destress you after a long hard day at work. With it came different pack formats, squeezable bottles and ones you could take and hang in the shower.

On the back of a Barry White powered TV advertising campaign the brand was soon the number one shower brand in the UK, says Venters.

Ideal opportunity

It was through this track record of working with brands, right through to his time at Greene King and leading its brewing and brands division up to 2013, that brought him to the attention of the Hofmeister team.

“I was introduced to Richard (Longhurst) and just loved the story. It was just such an interesting project and fitted in so nicely with my career in rejuvenating old brands,” he says.

“We got chatting and I quickly realised there was such huge potential here for the new Hofmeister as a genuine premium beer brand.”

He is though quick to praise the steps that co-founders Richard Longhurst and Spencer Chambers have taken in not only having the imagination - and the bravery - of bringing the brand back in the first place, but in how well they have positioned it as such an authentic Bavarian beer.

“They have already done such a good job. My role is really to help define what they have done a little more sharply, particularly around what the brand is about and the right kind of outlet that it should be in. The imagery of the brand is what really matters,” he explains.

“What I always look for in a brand is its authenticity. You then need brand awareness and reasons why people will love it. Now that brand awareness usually costs millions of pounds to achieve, and we already have that. The product could not be better and the fact it has already won so many prestigious awards gives it the credibility too.”

It is also targeted at the world lager sector, the fastest growing segment in the beer category and has the German, and Bavarian credentials that no other world beers have.

“We have the opportunity to really target that sector with an excellent product that has an emotional connection as well. It’s intelligent, authentic and slightly ironic. We can build on all those factors.”

Venters is also impressed with how important glassware and the point of sale is to the overall new Hofmeister package. Again Longhurst and Spencer’s background in gifting and packaging has really helped and Venters looks forward to fine tuning how its glassware can become a key part in how it works with its key on and off-trade customers.

It is an area he looked to develop during his time at Greene King and one he knows the major brewers are increasingly looking to their suppliers for.

“When I was at Greene King the glassware was key. It is one of the first considerations you make about a beer. When we relaunched Greene King IPA we could not keep up with production as our special branded tankards kept getting stolen.”

“We are doing something very similar with Hofmeister with its specially designed steins and glassware range.”

It is that careful balance between building distribution, but also focusing on the right outlets that is key for a brand with Hofmeister’s premium credentials, he adds. “Because it is so premium it has to be in the right outlet. Choosing the right ones is going to be critical.”

Premium push

Venters believes that out of a total of 120,000 pubs and bars nationally, Hofmeister needs to concentrate its sales efforts on establishing itself in the 1,200 to 1,400 most highly quality premium outlets over the next three to four years.

“The best publicity you can get is people seeing the fonts and trying the beer in the right outlets,” he adds. “We also know we are adding real value to those outlets. Once we go into an account we very rarely get taken out. The beer sells and we are enhancing their margins at the same time.”

As well as building its presence in the premium on-trade and specialist independent off-trade, Hofmeister will also be looking to build up its direct to consumer sales and use its e-commerce platform to better understand and build relationships with its customers.

Put all those together and Venters is confident Hofmeister can in the next four years become a £10 million plus beer brand in the market. “That’s the critical level you want to be at.”

He says it will take time to really understand which elements of the old brand can still work in the 2020s. “Only time will tell how much we can use the old ‘follow the bear’ slogan and imagery. It is proving to be a good gateway into social media and on the website, but we are not planning on using it anywhere else.”

The initial awareness and genuine warmth people have for the brand is a great starting point, but can only take you so far, he stresses. “Where the new Hofmeister really has a competitive edge is the fact the product is fabulous. That is why we believe it will do so well. The font just looks so good sitting on a bar. It’s then backed up with this brilliant story about two British entrepreneurs going out to Bavaria to find it. We think it can generate a huge amount of interest.”

He says he is genuinely excited to be given the opportunity to both invest and be part of the Hofmeister team.

“I feel lucky and privileged to be part of Richard and Spencer’s journey. Each of us in the management team can add something and we are having great fun working together.

“It’s also in these difficult times such a positive story. It shows British entrepreneurship and ingenuity at its best. I’ve signed up to have a hands-on role because I can see what a huge success it can be as it becomes one of the top premium world beers in the market over the next five years.”