Spitfire flies brewer to new heights

Bobby Neame
Bobby Neame

SOARING sales of Spitfire beer have helped ambitious Kent brewer Shepherd Neame to pull off more fizzing profits.

Britain’s oldest brewer reported its 28th year of profit growth in a row. Overall turnover rose 7.3 per cent to £84.5m, with pre-tax profits up by 4.3 per cent to £8.7m.

Spitfire, heavily promoted by a cheeky £500,000 advertising campaign, has taken off as a national brand with sales up nearly 25 per cent.

The 300-year old brewer said it would spend a similar sum promoting Spitfire this year, with further advertising on Sky TV and in newspapers.

The Queen’s Golden Jubilee and the Football World Cup had both boosted sales but there had been growth in all areas.

Sales of all beers went up 5.9 per cent, with brewery output growing 7.5 per cent to 200,000 barrels.

Sponsorship of Kent County Cricket Club had increased sales of Holsten Export “well above expectations” and Bishops Finger sales grew by four per cent.

Sheps is pumping £5m into expanding production and facilities at the Abbey Street, Faversham, brewery and developing a 6.5 acre site and cold store in Oare it bought recently for £1.7m. It is selling a warehouse in Belvedere Road to part-fund the deal.

Sheps also operates 366 pubs, of which 298 are tenanted. Turnover in its 68 managed houses went up 11 per cent. It plans to market its inns and their 240 bedrooms more strongly to exploit an expected increase in tourism and short breaks to Kent as transport links improve.

The company confirmed it was still looking to grow, possibly by acquisition, saying it had “significant resources to expand should the opportunity arise".

There were plenty of opportunities to expand its pub estate, especially in Kent where there was “continuing economic growth".

Company chairman Bobby Neame said: “I am delighted to announce another set of good results. Performance has been strong across the whole business, led by growth in Spitfire sales volumes, which are up by 24.9%.

“We have allocated £5m to invest in new production and distribution facilities in the coming year to meet the growing demand for our beer.”

Jonathan Neame, managing director, added: “The continuing consolidation in our market opens new opportunities both locally for pubs and nationally for cask and bottled ales and for strong niche brands. We remain confident that these opportunities will enable us to grow the company for the benefit of shareholders.”

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