Distributing problems for craft beers

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It's a pity that with over 20 craft breweries now operating around the country more of them didn't think it worthwhile to participate in Bord Bia’s recent Bloom Festival over the June Bank Holiday.



28 June 2013

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There was a lively atmosphere in ‘The Bloom Inn’ within the grounds of The Phoenix Park where several craft breweries including Metalman, The Porterhouse, White Gypsy, Tom Crean and Stonewell enjoyed huge attention from the public on one of the first really sunny days of Summer.

The beery absentees would have benefited hugely by exhibiting there in my opinion, for a record 110,000 attended the excellently-organised show.

Perhaps it’s a question of simply not having the money and manpower to lay out on such an event — but the exposure would have been mighty.

Perhaps it’s a question of being unable to cope with any significant increase in demand for their product?
For as Heineken’s David Forde points out in our 1&1 interview this month, the challenge for craft brewers is the potential proliferation of many brands very quickly onto the market, then facing the realisation that the scale of distribution simply isn’t commercially viable.

And that, perhaps, is the glass ceiling for the craft beer industry here. How can it grow beyond a certain capacity and size when it comes to brewing and distribution – not to mention marketing – without the financial might of a major international brewery behind it?

Certainly from speaking to various on- and off-trade members the attitude of many craft brewers leaves much to be desired. Words like ‘arrogant’, ‘unrealistic’ and ‘aloof’ frequently sprang to their lips in trying to place orders, expending more than a reasonable amount of time in attempting to achieve this, I understand.

One thing’s for sure: the Guinnesses and Heinekens of this world didn’t get where they are today without a hefty dose of marketing presence and that requires a critical mass, one which most of our craft breweries cannot hope to match.

On the other hand why shouldn’t craft brewers see themselves marketing their product to an international market? Surely the Government could play a significant part here by offering them more assistance?

But being the brewing mavericks that they are, perhaps the real question is that in achieving widespread distribution, how much of their very soul would they have to cut loose too?



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