Chris Miller talks to Helena Drakakis about how improved accessibility is boosting craft beer
BW: What is the Craft Beer Clan of Scotland?
CM: We set up the Craft Beer Clan two years ago to work with craft brewers and distillers to enable their route to market. Our initial thinking was to support that route internationally with an export portal that offered a single point of consolidation to a wide-ranging portfolio. But within the first year, that grew arms and legs in terms of offering that very same model to the domestic market.
We are now distributing domestically for around 40 craft brewers, and around a dozen craft distillers.
BW: How is the platform helping wholesalers to grow sales?
I would say it’s helped more and more retailers access craft beer through wholesale. The pull is there. Craft beers, small-batch products and
craft spirits, such as gin, are high-trending categories.
Brewers are passionate and the stories behind the products are emotive. For example, we deal with venues in London and Edinburgh that are at the cutting edge of destination food and drink. We’ve curated a Craft Beer Clan drinks list with products, tasting notes, and stories, and that’s available to the on- and off-trade. All the products are accessible through local distributors.
BW: What are the opportunities for craft beer and spirits in wholesale?
There’s a lot of demand for craft beers and spirits through the wholesale channel, but previously there hasn’t been accessible availability. For independent bottle stores and craft beer bars, dealing with a case here from a distiller or a case there from a brewer, it’s not an efficient procurement process. Having a single point of consolidation, and offering a lower minimum order quantity based on taking a selection from the portfolio has changed trade buying habits to meet consumers’ changing buying habits.
BW: What’s been the Craft Beer Clan’s greatest achievement in the past year?
We’ve helped win a supply contract with Asda worth £850,000. It will now sell beers from 13 Scottish brewers. It took us a year from initial engagement to navigate the process. We were also able to give category and ranging advice to Walmart, even though they know what they are doing. Our complementary skill sets have been invaluable.
BW: What’s the greatest challenge you face?
Sharing some sort of demand forecast with producers. These small breweries and distillers do some local, and some supermarket, business and they may have flirted with export, but the challenge is helping them manage growth. Asda was good enough to share a demand plan for the first 16 weeks. To give that to a small producer is gold.
It’s not like that in daily business, but even if it’s 80% accurate, it helps them plan. There’s no point in developing a brand if you can’t get product.
BW: What advice would you give wholesalers looking to grow sales in craft beer?
Call me! Seriously, they need to get producers on board. Also, don’t list 100 products – list 20, really understand them and sell them for what they are. I wouldn’t want the craft segment to get over-diluted. With that you also run the risk of lack of availability. I know who to go to for volume and who to be sensitive with in terms of capability.
BW: Where would you like the Craft Beer Clan to be in the next 12 months?
A couple of years ago we had to push, now we’re being pulled and having to react to so many requests, whether they are from London, Edinburgh, Dubai or Singapore. I can only see that continuing.
BW: What are your favourite craft tipples?
Personally, I prefer the aromatic, slightly stronger, hoppier, bitter beers. In terms of a mainstream IPA, it would be William’s Joker IPA. And one of the most exciting spirits I’ve tasted recently is Minus 33, which is technically not a gin but a juniper spirit.