Shepherd Neame CEO Jonathan Neame has spoken of his family brewery’s transition from “male, stale and clunky” brand, to modern and metropolitan pub operator.

Speaking at MCA’s Tenanted Pub Company Summit, Neame said the company had been forced to undergo a radical transformation in recent years, in response to a demographic shift in its south east heartland.

He described how the deindustrialization of the 1980s, recession of 2008 and had piled pressure upon the operator’s asset base, and necessitated a shift in Shepherd Neame’s proposition.

“We had to challenge ourselves to survive, we needed to seriously change what we were doing”, he told the summit.

“There was a fundamental shift in our heartland, and we needed to shift with it.”

He said greater connectivity in the south east had led to a younger, more metropolitan consumer base, which Shepherd Neame had looked to tap into.

Neame said too much of beer was “bland and mediocre”, leading to the portfolio being modernised and freshened up for the new demographic

The operator has also looked to tap into the tourism market, with Kent attracting 4.5m visitors per anum.

The family company has worked to reposition its pubs to make them look more independent for the local community with bespoke signage, with the “the pub the hero, and Shepherd Neame the endorser”.

The company’s tenanted pubs, which he described as the “biggest and absolutely fundamental” division in the company, receive on average £24,000 investment a year.

However the smaller managed division is where most of the investment is going, he added.