Stephan Kofler Interview – UK Sales & Marketing Director of Krombacher
Questions and Answers with Stephan Kofler, Krombacher UK Sales & Marketing Director.
We speak to Stephan on UK drinking trends, German traditions and tips on keeping your customers with a beer in their hand!
Are consumers drinking less, how is the healthy food and drink trend impacting and is this a threat?
“A lot of research does show that many consumers are cutting back on the amount they drink with millennials (people reaching adulthood around the year 2000) in particular one consumer group where this is most pronounced. Some figures suggest as many as one in four may be giving up drinking. The food and drink health trend is definitely one of the reasons for this but I have to say this doesn’t overly concern me as I also think there is a trend for beer quality over quantity. People are drinking less but better and I think that is a good thing for people and the beer industry in the long run as they are also happy to pay a premium for quality. It means beer is getting treated in a different way and not just as something used to get sozzled. The decision on what beer to drink is now about the occasion, the season, the venue, the food and the company instead of just abv and price.”
Should Inn Keepers be stocking low or no alcohol beers? What tips do you have for selling and merchandising low-alcohol and no-alcohol lines?
“For start, I think that in addition to having a quality array of soft drinks, Inn Keepers have to stock a range of quality low and no alcohol beers. Our range including our Non Alcoholic Pils and Weizen (both less than 0.5% abv) have seen astounding interest and growth. In the past, the low alcohol beers, were unimportant to many breweries but the category has been reinvigorated, choice is at its all time high and quality is high on the agenda. We’re no longer at the point where no-alcohol beers are looked at as low-quality and tasteless and our Krombacher No/Low Alcohol beers are prime examples of low-ABV beers providing plenty of flavour and character. Our Krombacher is brewed according to strict German purity laws dating back to 1516 which state that beers should only be made using water, hops, malt and barley. Krombacher Low Alcohol Pils is brewed combining two special methods. The first process involves brewing full-strength Krombacher Pils and then interrupting the fermentation process before the alcohol begins to develop. The second process involves withdrawing the alcohol in a very gentle and elaborate way from a full strength Pils. It is honestly that good that a sales rep was drinking it all day at a recent hospitality day without knowing.”
How do authentic German beers fit into the craft/world beer range in Inns? Does the perception of quality and heritage help the German traditionalists hold their own against ‘trendier’ brews?
“Whilst awareness and interest of craft beer has gone through the roof in recent years, Germany’s beer making heritage and reputation for brewing quality has been built over the last 500 years and has remained undiminished – even with the increased excitement around craft. I actually think the craft boom has helped quality led German brands such as Krombacher as it has meant an increased number of consumers taking an interest in unique brands with interesting stories who put beer quality above all else. Yes, a large proportion of consumers are out there searching for an array of hop-filled IPA’s, pale ales, red ales, seasons and stouts but lager is still the nation’s favourite beer style by quite some volume and I don’t think there are any craft lagers out there that can compete with a quality and back-story a German Pilsener such as Krombacher Pils offers.”
“I think the craft message has reverberated around beer drinkers as a whole and even if they are not interested in weird and wacky beer styles, they are definitely becoming more discerning in their lager choices. Gone are the days when an insipid mainstream lager was king of the Inn – now consumers are looking for something more than a catchy advertising campaign. They want to know about how beers are produced, with what ingredients and by who. Krombacher is proudly independent, family run and doesn’t compromise on quality, only using the finest ingredients including its unique Felsquellwasser water to produce beers which can’t be matched. With the on-trade as competitive as ever, licensees are also realising that brands like Krombacher can be very beneficial to the bottom line. Not only can they help set venues apart from the competition, provide a point of difference and add value to promotional activities but they can also generate a premium price.
Do celebrations of German beer culture such as Oktoberfest boost sales of German beers in the UK on-trade?
“German cultural events have definitely increased in the UK over the last few years and beer is always a centrepiece of them. Germany is synonymous with beer so whether it is spring/summer festivals, Oktoberfest or German Christmas markets, these types of events are the perfect way to reach new consumers, drive brand awareness and increase stockists and sales. Our prestigious German beer Krombacher continued its awareness drive last month after sponsoring the Dubtoberfest – a festival for VW camper vans and enthusiasts – near Worcester. With the event a sell-out show and blessed with good weather, we were delighted to see nearly 8000 pints drunk over the three days and a very, very good time had by all. In addition, we are always very active supporting our accounts and helping them run their own German beer festivals and Oktoberfest events so get in touch if we can help.”
How important is social media and what are your tips?
“For Inns and on-trade venues, social media is an incredibly powerful tool for promotion, positioning yourself, communicating with customers and fans plus reaching new consumers. The best part is that it is free so i would recommend that you take advantage. Don’t try to do everything, choose the social platforms that your target customers use and use it to target and start conversations with them. For it to be successful, it has to be a team effort so that means everyone helping to think of fun and interesting content. Remember people love seeing people so get your chef, front of house, cleaners and everyone else involved as well as show casing your usp’s such as your decor, food, rooms and of course beer selection. Our twitter page is dedicated to shouting about and collaborating with venues that stock our products so we basically work together in getting the message out.”