Following a six-month review by Heineken and Bulmers, the Dutch brewing group has said that the license agreement for Heineken's Amstel brand between the two companies in the UK has been ended.

Heineken UK will now take direct responsibility for the brand and UK production of Amstel will cease, resulting in the withdrawal of the 5% abv packaged variant from the market.

However, Heineken said its "commitment to developing Amstel in the UK will be continued in the on-trade, following the highly successful launch of imported draught Amstel at the end of 2002, in a 4.1% ABV 'super-standard' format."

A project team are also evaluating market opportunities to introduce Amstel 4.1% in a packaged format.

"The Amstel brand benefits from a hugely positive awareness among drinkers in the UK, thanks in part to their enjoyment of it on holiday in countries like Greece and Spain, as well as the UEFA Champions League sponsorship and Amstel's strong and popular Amsterdam heritage," said Simon Green, senior brand manager for Amstel in the UK. "Draught 4.1% ABV Amstel, imported from Amsterdam, has tapped a market among drinkers who want to trade up to premium quality, without the traditional premium strength."

At the same time, Heineken also said that its UK sales-force will be taking responsibility for selling Amstel to all on-trade national accounts.

Turnkey, an independent on-trade sales company, will continue to manage sales to top-end independent outlets, building on the work it has already done in the independent bars sector.

"The Heineken UK sales force has established relationships with the national on-trade accounts through selling the Heineken brand, and it makes sense for them to take on the same role for Amstel," said Green.

"We are very excited about the potential for Amstel in the UK, and are planning a long-term successful future for Europe's second biggest beer in Europe's second biggest beer market."