Not content to be Managing Director of one of Scotland’s biggest wholesalers, Simon Hannah also heads Craft Beer Clan of Scotland, which is switching some focus onto distributing beers into the domestic market.
For the uninitiated, what does Craft Beer Clan of Scotland do?
It exists to help Scottish craft brewers penetrate key markets, initially in the Asia Pacific region. We have now signed up 19 brewers following a successful pilot. We’re also in advanced discussions with distributors in Scandinavia, Dubai, Japan, Canada and North America.
Which breweries have signed up?
We’ve been working with breweries of all scales, from taking Tennent Caledonian’s Tennent’s Whisky Beer into new export territories, to smaller end breweries such as Glasgow’s Jaw Brew, which is just a husband and wife team. They get excited seeing their beer being exported to other countries. We’ve got Williams Brothers, Drygate, West and Caledonian Brewery on board, among others.
So what’s the plan?
Our strategy has been to identify an opportunity to target consumers who already love and buy Scotch whisky but want to try something new with a great story behind it – and that’s what these breweries and their brands have. We’re targeting a £2.5m annual turnover within five years. It’s still early days – we’re not going to be sunbathing on our yachts in Monaco just yet!
You initially started in Asia, why?
It’s the most difficult market to break. That may sound strange but if you can crack that then everything else is set up. Single malt whisky has created this amazing opportunity for Scottish products.
Why do breweries need your help to do this?
It’s about creating an umbrella brand. Doing a sales trip to Asia costs thousands and craft brewers just aren’t big enough to do that on their own, so we can do that for them. Volumes are limited given the scale of production, but we can push certain breweries in certain countries; it’s not a one-size fits all solution. There are three aspects of the business we’re pushing: the export market, the Scottish domestic and the UK domestic.
So you’re also breaking into the domestic market?
That’s right. We’ve identified 30 to 40 specialist c-stores and off-licences and we’ve got a range of 40 to 50 beers that we’re planning on distribute. We’ve got planograms for three linear metres and shelf labels under the Craft Beer Clan of Scotland banner. The plan is to push 330ml bottles, which attracts more people into the category.
Is craft beer making a big breakthrough?
Fewer people are buying an eight-pack of lager. A lot of people would prefer to spend that same money on three bottles of different craft beer and explore the category. Even if they occasionally buy one they don’t like, it doesn’t put them off.
Is there more room for growth?
In the US, craft beer represents around 10% of the beer market; here it’s 2%. That’s a huge opportunity.
Why should c-stores be backing craft beer?
It’s in global growth. Customers are interested. It offers a real point of difference and craft beers carry good margins. There’s a KeyStore in Mount Florida in Glasgow surrounded by other c-stores, but his beer range sets him apart. Why should supermarkets take ownership of it?
Sounds like 2015 is set to be a big year!
We’re really committed to this. We think we’re onto a winner. There’s a lot of support out there, people like James Withers at Scotland Food and Drink have been great. And it doesn’t stop at beer. We believe this can be replicated in other categories – Scottish gin, biscuits.