Follow the bear... out the door as Hofmeister is axed

LONDON – The Hofmeister beer brand, famous for its 'follow the bear' commercials in the 1980s, is set to be axed by Scottish Courage on the back of plummeting sales.

The Hofmeister ads, created by BMP DDB's John Webster, featured George the Bear, who dressed in shades and a natty jacket and swaggered around town with a couple of friends. The ads featured the tagline "For great lager, follow the bear".

The brand is being axed as part of a review of Scottish Courage brands that could also see other poor performers, such as Kestrel lager, also delisted.

Scottish Courage said that the brand was being axed initially from the off-trade, and would no longer appear in off-licences as sales of the lager dropped 47% year on year.

For the short term, Hofmeister will still sell in bars and pubs, but with just 150 outlets remaining it is unlikely that the brand will survive for long.

The German-sounding Hofmeister, which has always been brewed in the UK, has suffered like many older beer and lager brands at the explosion in premium beers such as Carlsberg, Fosters, Stella and other imports.

Scottish Courage said that while Hofmeister sales had plummeted to just 4,000 barrels a year, or just over 1m pints, sales of its Foster's brand had soared 30%.

A spokesman for Scottish Courage said: "It's a case of falling demand and the rise of premium beers. We've made no final decision to delist it altogether, but we have been looking into it."

The brand has been in danger of being axed since the Scottish & Newcastle and Courage merger in 1995. Marketing support for the brand, and others like Kestrel, has long been cut.

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