McEWAN'S is hoping drinkers will once again proclaim it the "best buy in beer" after owner Wells & Young's unveiled an ale it hopes will rejuvenate the brand in Scotland.
Bedford-based Wells & Young's launched McEwan's Red at Edinburgh venue Le Monde yesterday, where it also set out plans to take the brand to a younger audience.
There is no place for the laughing cavalier logo on the Red ale's branding; however, his image will remain on the other ales in the McEwan's range, which includes McEwan's 60/-, 70/- and 80/-, Export and Champion Ale.
Taking its name from the red tinge of the liquid, McEwan's Red seeks to fill a gap in the market between the new generation of cask and craft ales spearheaded by players such as BrewDog and Williams, and the more established mainstream ale category, occupied by Belhaven Best, John Smith's and Caledonia Best.
Its arrival comes after Wells & Young's acquired the McEwan's and Younger's brands from Heineken in late 2011.
Paul Wells, chairman of Charles Wells, parent company of Wells & Young's, said: "We took a long time to understand Scotland and to try to really understand what the consumer wanted, as well as what the trade wanted.
"It became very clear they wanted both the perseverance and the preservation of the existing brand, but there was a thirst for something new.
"I'm very pleased that Wells & Young's can make this sort of investment in the Scottish market as well as what we're doing in the UK market on a broader basis. I think it's genuinely a new chapter in the McEwan's brand."
Family-owned Wells & Young's said the launch marks stage one of the "total rejuvenation" of the McEwan's brand, which it said had been starved of investment in the past two to three decades.
It claimed that, in spite of receiving little support, McEwan's was still the biggest ale brand in Scottish shops and supermarkets with a 21% share by volume, and a key player in the on-trade market, with a 12% share.
Wells & Young's said the loyalty of consumer to the brand meant it sold 18 million pints last year.
With a strength of 3.6% alcohol by volume, the new beer is broadly targeted at 30 to 50-year-old males, a younger audience than McEwan's typically attracts. The aim is to bring a new generation into the brand, which dates from 1856, while continuing to appeal to 50-plus consumers.
A draught roll-out has already begun for McEwan's Red in pubs, and distribution of the canned product in shops and supermarkets will follow in May. The draught product is being brewed alongside sister ales at the Caledonian Brewery in Edinburgh, with cans produced in Bedford.
A marketing campaign, developed in partnership with Edinburgh-based agency The Union, to promote McEwan's Red kicks off with new television adverts on May 25. The ads will appear during coverage of the Champions League Final that day, with further coverage during the Scottish Cup Final the following day.
Outdoor and poster advertising will also be used to support the brand, as well as a new website and in-outlet marketing.
In the most recent accounts available at Companies House, Wells & Young's reported underlying pre-tax profits of £5.6 million on turnover of £169.2m for the period ended October 1, 2011.