Interbrew plans Leffe boost

Belgian brewing giant Interbrew is planning to roll out European brand Abbaye de Leffe in the UK following its &£400m takeover of Whitbread’s brewing interests.

An Interbrew UK spokeswoman refuses to confirm the move, but an insider insists it is on the agenda.

Leffe is a “blonde” beer with an ABV of 6.6 per cent, and is available both in bottles and on draught.

The brand, which is sold in France, Belgium and the Netherlands, is Interbrew’s fifth largest local brand by volume, ahead of Hoegaarden and Labatt Ice.

But the takeover has left a question mark over the future dir-ection of leading UK premium lager Stella Artois, which is likely to continue to be controlled from Interbrew’s Brussels headquarters.

Interbrew UK will retain the Whitbread Beer Company’s board structure, with Stewart Gilliland continuing as sales and marketing director and Miles Templeman as managing director.

They will report to Ignace Van Doorselaere, executive vice-president of Interbrew’s west European division. An Interbrew spokesman says Whitbread was discussing rolling out Abbaye de Leffe before the takeover.

Hoegaarden and Oranjeboom are expected to be the subject of new UK campaigns. Interbrew is also believed to be looking to introduce other brands from its global portfolio.

However, some observers believe Interbrew will need to switch responsibility for Stella to the UK to capitalise fully on Whitbread’s marketing talent.

One brewing industry insider says: “Interbrew is not a brands company. It is all about brewing and distribution. The UK is by far the biggest market for Stella, so it would make sense for it to be controlled from there.”

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