Case study: Kestrel lager

Kestrel lager relaunched last week with a new design, new packaging and a new owner. Nigel McNally, a former marketing director at Wells & Young’s, acquired the brand from the drinks company at the end of last year and incorporated it into Brookfield Drinks, a new venture aimed at reviving neglected brands.

McNally insists that Kestrel is still a popular brand, with sales rising at a time when the alcohol market as a whole is declining with per capita consumption down 16 per cent since 2004. But he claims that because of the size of the Wells & Young’s portfolio, managers weren’t giving Kestrel the attention it needed to help it realise its potential.

“Our research shows there is a big, latent demand for an authentic British beer that can go into the premium lager category,” he says. “Because Kestrel has national awareness and national distribution from being in the stronger beer sector, we now have an opportunity to take it into other categories, and that’s very exciting.”

While Kestrel was formerly just a ‘super strength’ lager measuring 9 per cent ABV, McNally has overseen the development of new variants that aim to give the brand a broader appeal.

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Last week’s relaunch was for a 5 per cent variant for sale in independent shops, and there are also plans to relaunch the super strength in a new ‘sharing can’ size. But McNally reveals that Brookfield aims to get Kestrel back on supermarket shelves with new 4 per cent and 2.8 per cent variants that are due to launch in the coming months.

To support Kestrel’s relaunch, Brookfield has redesigned the brand to make it softer, lighter and more clearly aligned with its Scottish heritage. This includes using the Sottish flag on the can and references to the ‘holy brewing method’ – a seven-day brewing method that McNally claims sets Kestrel apart from the shortcuts and cost-saving measures used by some national brewers.

“We’re saying from a Kestrel brewing point of view that we’re not going to cut any corners,” he says. “We’re only going to source local Scottish barley and we’re only going to use a local source of water. We’re establishing the high ground in terms of brewing.”

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