During Boston Beer Company’s annual Great American Beer Festival breakfast, founder Jim Koch unveiled a new series of Samuel Adams ads and announced a new grant program that will give $1 million to early stage food and beverage companies.
Koch said the new series of folksy ads, which highlight hop selection in Germany for Samuel Adams’ flagship Boston Lager, focus on “craftsmanship” and “artisanal values.” The ads end with the tagline: “Brewed inefficiently since 1984.”
Koch said the new ads show the freedom independent craft breweries, such as Boston Beer Company, which is publicly traded, possess. They also help distinguish “craft brewers from big industrial brewers,” Koch added.
“You’re not a slave to the bottom line,” he said. “You can brew beer in a woefully or gloriously inefficient way.
“That distinguishes craft brewers from big industrial brewers,” he added.
Differentiation between small brewers and larger corporate beer companies presents a “big opportunity” for craft brewers, Koch said. Echoing comments made in the past by Founders Brewing co-founder and CEO Mike Stevens, Koch said craft brewers should be going after the 85 percent of the beer market beer consumers who don’t drink craft beer. Koch said those consumers are “up for grabs”
“To me, that’s necessary for the whole beer category,” he said. “We should all be trying to make beer interesting, exciting, engaging because today the sea of sameness can be boring to consumers. I’ll never forget what my dad said, ‘Jim, all beer is good, but some beer is better.’”
Following the meeting, Koch told Brewbound that the new ad campaign would launch within the next six weeks and include print and digital advertising. He added that the company is investing “serious money” into the campaign.
During the company’s second-quarter investors call, CFO Frank Smalla said the company planned to increase its spending on advertising, promotions and selling expenses between $15 and $25 million in 2018.
Koch also didn’t rule out a packaging refresh in the future.
“We’re not going to stop innovating,” he said.
Additionally, Koch announced that Boston Beer has committed to give $1 million in grants to small businesses in the food and beverage space in need of seed money that can’t qualify for loans.
“Some of ‘em are promising so we said, ‘Let’s take a million dollars and see if we can create a hundred successful small food and beverage business in the artisanal space,’” he said. “They create jobs and economic development just like craft beer does.”
Koch also told Brewbound that Boston Beer would begin fielding applications for the grants “now,” with a target of selecting about 100 recipients from 50 communities across the country in 2019.
“Many of them will be craft breweries,” he said.
Boston Beer will fund the grants from its bottom line, Koch added.
“That’s the value of independence,” he said. “I don’t have to go to some global company in a foreign country and say, ‘Can I do this?’ I’m not an employee. I’m an owner.”
Koch added that the new grant program would build upon Boston Beer’s Brewing the American Dream program, which has given millions of dollars in small business loans to food and beverage companies over the last two decades. At the end of the meeting, Koch announced this year’s Brewing the American Dream recipient, 1912 Brewing Company from Tucson, Arizona.
“We’re always trying to expand and build on the success of the program,” he said.
Other notes from the breakfast:
Brewers Association president and CEO Bob Pease, who helped kickoff the Samuel Adams breakfast, said the Thursday session of GABF eventually sold out.
“We sold more tickets this year than we’ve ever sold in the history of the 37 years of the Great American Beer Festival,” he said.
Pease also touted the BA’s new “that’s independence you’re tasting” campaign, which he said helps differentiate small and independent brewers from larger operations.
The ads were launched to promote the BA’s independence seal, which was introduced last year. According to Pease, 3,850 brewing companies — who account for 80 percent of the craft beer volume in the U.S. — have signed the organization’s licensing agreement to use the seal.
“The Brewers Association supports a beer market and a beer climate where beer drinker pull and not supplier push determines what gets on tap and what gets put on the shelf,” he said. “Let’s let the beer drinker decide and see where the chips fall.”