Innovation in craft brewing is a lot like a pee-wee soccer game, with all of the players running toward the same ball.
At least, that’s how Neal Stewart, the vice president of sales and marketing for Deschutes Brewery, sees it. And that’s not a bad thing. So how do craft brewers differentiate in a crowded and more competitive climate? They need to figure out what their “superpower is” and make that their focus, he explained during Episode 5 of the Brewbound Podcast’s third season.
“What do you do really well?” Stewart asked. “Even if that kind of sounds similar to another brand, be OK with that, but really focus on that, and find a unique way of communicating that.”
That’s just one of the nuggets of knowledge shared by Stewart, who recently added the VP of sales title and responsibilities to his existing role as VP of marketing for the Bend, Oregon-headquartered craft brewery. Stewart, who joined Deschutes in April 2019, has more than two decades of experience working for some of the biggest beer companies in the U.S., including Pabst, Dogfish Head, Molson Coors, Mark Anthony Brands and Flying Dog.
In this week’s featured interview, Stewart discusses his preference for working with people with beer industry experience and who have “been through wars and been in the trenches,” the differences in starting at a large beer manufacturer versus a small craft brewery, and how craft beer has stopped being an “easy business.”
Stewart also explains why he’s adopted a wholesaler’s mindset, and why he’s embraced the dreaded question, “How does this help us sell beer?”
“For them, it’s all about efficiency and it’s all about moving boxes,” he said. “And I think that craft brewers right now need to be thinking about how do we move boxes and how do we spend our budget to do that immediately.”
Listen to the episode above, or find it on popular platforms such as iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher and Spotify. New episodes of the Brewbound Podcast are published Thursdays.
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