Fresh off an importer transition in the United States and the acquisition of fellow Scottish craft beer maker Inveralmond Brewing, Innis & Gunn is preparing to expand its global presence.
Best known for its oak-infused line of beers, Innis & Gunn is one of the few globally distributed craft brands with a deliberate focus on growing sales in international markets. Although it is the second largest craft supplier in the U.K., behind BrewDog, approximately 65 percent of Innis & Gunn’s sales come from more than 20 countries where it sells beer.
And in the U.S., where it sold approximately 100,000 cases (7,200 barrels) last year, Innis & Gunn is in the midst of restructuring its operations as it eyes eventual national distribution.
Originally introduced in the U.S. in 2010 via its Innis & Gunn USA subsidiary, which oversaw all aspects of sales and marketing, the company recently reassigned U.S. distribution rights to United States Beverage LLC, an importing company that manages sales and distribution for prominent international beers like Ireland’s Murphy’s Brewery, Spain’s Grupo Damm and Japan’s Tiger Beer.
“They have a hell of a lot more manpower,” said the brewery’s U.S. general manager Neil Sharp, whose brother Dougal Sharp founded Innis & Gunn in 2003. “To truly do the U.S. justice, we needed to move to a company with more structure.”
Currently available in about 20 states, according to Sharp, a majority of Innis & Gunn’s sales are concentrated in East Coast markets like New York, New Jersey, and its top market, Florida.
But that footprint is growing, Sharp said, noting that Texas, Colorado, Washington, Oregon and California are all at the top of the company’s priority list.
“It’s still early days and we are still making a lot of assessments,” he added.
While Innis & Gunn will have greater access to sales and distribution resources via its partnership with US Beverage, which employs about 30 sales reps around the country, the brand’s biggest task going forward will be generating greater consumer awareness.
“It is challenging for us to break through,” said Sharp. “It is the most competitive and crowded market in the world, but it is also the most exciting. The beer we bring is unique and, ultimately, we just want to be a part of the repertoire.”
The company is developing a “much stronger” draft program and altering its product mix to make seasonal and rotating beers available to distributors.
The company’s Original and Rum Finish offerings will continue to be imported but Toasted Oak IPA will be discounted, said Sharp. In its place, a dark bourbon cask ale and two limited edition beers will be introduced.
At retail, 4-packs will continue to sell for about $9.99, he added, noting that a more modest price point is aimed at encouraging trial.
“We are still a new player in this market and we don’t want to put people off from trying our beers,” he said.
Innis & Gunn has, over the years, focused most of its product development around barrel aging and oak-infusion, but the company recently introduced lager IPA offerings for the U.K. market that were not matured on oak.
Those more traditional craft beers could eventually find their way to the U.S. as well, Sharp said.
“The lager has been a phenomenal success for us in Scotland,” he said. “A big part of my job is looking at the U.S. market and making assessments. We make beers that can go up against craft offerings made here in the U.S. We have 35 ideas on the table for new beers next year, and we are in the planning phase right now.”