Molson Coors says it is prepared to take "the short-term hits" on its struggling Grolsch brand and that it will continue to eschew promotions in an attempt to boost long-term sales.

Although sales of the 400-year old Dutch beer have slumped 24% to £51m over the past year [Nielsen 52w/e 10 July], it marks an improved performance on March when sales were down 40%.

Grolsch's premium positioning was starting to bear fruit, said Molson. The company would continue marketing and pricing Grolsch as a premium brand and "not follow the route of other premium lagers" and upscale promotional activity, it said.

"We have to look at the longer-term picture, as hefty price offers do not build a sustainable beer category," said Kristy McCready, communications partner at Molson. "Some of the prices for supposedly premium lagers are bonkers. Short-term sales hits have to happen to take Grolsch through to the next 400 years."

The brand was emerging from a period of challenging sales performances and had now "stabilised itself," said McCready.

The level of distribution of Grolsch in the off-trade fell to 64% in 2009 but was currently at 83%, she said.

"It remains a highly competitive marketplace. But what is really changing is that more expensive world beers are driving the growth, leading retailers to think that it doesn't just have to be about price. In the longer term, Grolsch will benefit from that kind of thinking."

However, a beer buyer for a national retailer suggested the "complex" flavour of Grolsch was not as accessible to British drinkers compared with rivals such as Kronenbourg 1664 and Carlsberg Export.

He accused Molson of neglecting the brand since it had bought it from SABMiller in 2007. "After a sustained period of poor sales, SABMiller might want to take Grolsch back under its wing," he added. "Molson has overlooked Grolsch in terms of investment. You don't see the kind of big budget advertising on Grolsch as you do for its rivals, which is a shame because Grolsch is a credible brand."