“It’s been a lot of hard work and every single one of our shareholders has contributed to our growth and we would not be where we are now without them.” That’s how Hofmeister’s chief executives, Richard Longhurst and Spencer Chambers, look back on an extraordinarily busy 2021 that has been hugely rewarding and successful at the same time.

What had already been a record year in terms of sales, new listings and distribution was topped by a hugely successful crowdfunding campaign, throughout December, that has seen over £1.2m invested in the business with 400 new shareholders joining the growing tribe of Hofmeister ambassadors around the country.

Longhurst and Chambers say they could not have wished for any more from a campaign that more than achieved what it set out to do - and perhaps more importantly, for the long-term future of the brand, saw the return of George the Bear out of his long retirement.

The £1.2m plus now gives the company a “huge momentum” to take into the new year, says Chambers. The amount raised was far more than the Hofmeister team could have hoped for and it means it will now be able to ramp up its expansion plans even more in 2022.

“We are absolutely delighted that we have been able to smash our target with such a phenomenal raise of money,” adds Longhurst. “Crucially it has now set us up brilliantly to go into 2022 with new staff and money in the bank and we can go and hit the ground running.”

The crowdfund hoped to do four key things: raise enough funds to fuel the business’ growth over the next 12 months and really help it drive its nationwide distribution by expanding its sales team; help bridge Hofmeister’s past and present with an expertly told story; build an even bigger ‘tribe’ of Hofmeister ambassadors that can represent the business around the country; bring back George the Bear in a way that excites both the beer and creative worlds and helps give Hofmeister a platform on which to base a compelling marketing strategy on in the years to come.

All of which it achieved and more, as Longhurst says: “It has set us up brilliantly to go into 2022 with new staff and money in the bank and we can go and hit the ground running.”

All hands to the helm

The team, they say, have worked tirelessly throughout 2021 to make sure they make the most of every possible moment that has come their way. They admit the festive week was probably the first time they have “come up for air” in months, but they won’t be resting for long as there is now so much more to achieve in the 12 months to come.

The two are already very much focused on what can be achieved next and that the team does everything it can to build not just on their investors’ “momentum” but to also capitalise on the genuine excitement and engagement there is in the trade for the re-born Hofmeister.

Longhurst says the entire Hofmeister team has worked hard to develop a distribution and implementation strategy for every new customer. The challenge is now to keep on delivering it. “Replication, replication, replication,” is what everyone in the company is tasked to do, he adds.

As its network of customers grows it becomes even more vital it continues to raise its own standards in step with their needs. “It is up to us to make sure we give our teams the tools they need to make sure they are working with our customers every step of the way,” says Chambers.

It’s also crucial the team learns as it grows, says Longhurst. “There is no place for complacency. But compared to a big business we can react fast and implement new ideas very quickly,” he adds. “We will also never stop learning and improving. That’s also down to the experience and knowledge of the team as well.”

They are quick to praise the efforts of their non-executive directors, Euan Venters and Kim Francis, in helping develop a distribution and trading strategy that the team can then go on and implement.  “We then have a sales team with the track record of going out and delivering on that plan.”

Jim Harling, for example, has recently been promoted to sales director thanks to the impact he has made on its sales operation since joining the business from Camden Town Brewery earlier this year. Longhurst says it has been like “starting where Camden finished” in terms of fast tracking the company’s expertise. “We have had a massive short cut thanks to Jim’s knowledge.”

By splitting its customers into gold, silver and bronze accounts it can also allocate time and investment on those outlets best placed to make the most of working with Hofmeister with additional training and support.

Winning key accounts has also been a big confidence booster for the business - like The Plough in Harborne, that had been Ei Group’s number one tenanted and leased pub before being taken over by Stonegate. Within a few months of being listed as one of its key premium world beers Hofmeister Helles has overtaken Estrella, San Miguel and Peroni to become The Plough’s number one selling draught lager. “It’s a great example of what you can achieve when you are working and activating the brand with the bar staff and their customers,” says Longhurst.

Online opportunity

2022 will be a key year for Hofmeister online as it looks to take advantage of the huge rise in online sales by ramping up its own direct to consumer platform, which it expects to make up 15% to 20% of its overall sales in 2022. Longhurst says online has become an even more important part of Hofmeister’s multi-channel strategy particularly with the continued trading uncertainty in the on-trade due to the pandemic.

The new crowdfund investment, he says, will help it invest more in its own Hofmeister direct to consumer platform to improve the user experience and digital marketing spend. It has also ramped up the work it is doing with its online partners - most noticeably Amazon and Slurp, the dedicated drinks website - with further plans in 2022 to enhance its Amazon profile with increased advertising and support. Hofmeister is also now available on Gorillas, the on demand site, Virgin Wines, Drink Supermarket, Beer Hawk and Ocado, which now stocks our full range.

The fact it now has 400 new shareholders, each armed with their own discounts to use the Hofmeister site will also be a boost for sales too.

The added investment will also help Hofmeister expand its sales team and push sales out from its current strongholds in London, the South East and North West and into further parts of the country.

“If there are further Covid lockdowns we are confident our business model makes us robust. We don’t have any supply chain costs, brewery or stock costs to worry about,” says Chambers. “We don’t even have a head office.”

Taste the quality

Ultimately, though, the long-term success of Hofmeister will come down to the quality of its beer and it has been particularly rewarding to see how well the two new beers introduced in 2021 have done - Hofmeister Weisse and Hofmeister Ultra Low 0.5%.

What’s more they have followed in Hofmeister Helles footsteps by already picking up a host of awards including a Gold for Weisse in the European Beer Challenge (Helles has won Gold for the last three years) and Gold for both Weisse and Ultra Low in the Craft Beer Awards 2021. Hofmeister Weisse also won Gold in the Asia Beer Challenge.

Richard Longhurst says it has really helped its distribution strategy to be able to offer its customers a wider Hofmeister range, with the Ultra Low, in particular, a major hit for outlets looking to offer a premium low alcohol alternative. Chambers adds: “We wanted to give our growing premium customer the opportunity to serve more of their customers with two styles of beer that suit very different, but increasingly important, drinking occasions. Both the wheat beer and ultra low alcohol categories have seen enormous growth in the last couple of years, with lots of new entrants to the market, but we believe our traditional, Bavarian styles bring something new to these categories that beer drinkers have not seen before in the UK.” 

That’s very much the Hofmeister philosophy. To continue to give the great British beer drinker something they can’t get anywhere else. And with George the Bear now part of the team and raring to go then Hofmeister is well placed to be the beer to follow in the years ahead.