Whitbread double blow as retailers drop brands

Whitbread’s new product plans have been dealt a blow following a decision by some supermarkets to axe two of its most innovative brands, Boston Beer and the alcopops range Shott’s.

Whitbread, which produces Boston Beer under licence from the Massachusetts brewery Samuel Adams, launched the brand in a 3m TV campaign last summer. Created by Lowe Howard-Spink, the spot starred US actor Elliott Gould.

But industry sources have questioned its “flavour delivery”, saying its taste is unusual to UK drinkers. Both Safeway and Asda have now dropped the beer.

However, the brewer plans to continue supporting the brand. A Whitbread spokeswoman says: “We are certainly not delisting it. We have just appointed a dedicated marketing manager, Graeme Mitchell, and significant support for the brand is being planned for 1998-1999.”

The Shott’s alcopops range was launched in early 1996, but has been axed by Sainsbury’s, Safeway and Tesco. Asda is considering whether to drop it.

The spokeswoman argues: “They are multiple retailers. The industry is wider than that. There are other areas where the products are still there and quite buoyant.”

The delisting of Shott’s, which was introduced in vanilla, lemon and cranberry flavours, is the latest blow to Whitbread’s new product division. It was forced to axe its bottled Boddingtons Export brand last year following poor sales (MW May 24 1996).

The fortunes of Shott’s and Boston Beer are in sharp contrast to the success of Stella Artois, produced under licence by Whitbread in the UK, which has become the top-selling lager in the off-trade.

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