Coronado Brewing Company is poised for “planned strategic growth” in 2020, the company’s new CEO James Murray told Brewbound.
According to Murray, the company’s projections for the year include 5% to 10% depletions (sales to retailers) growth. In 2019, Coronado sold 35,100 barrels, an 8.1% increase from the 32,471 barrels sold in 2018.
“We can push all the beer we want to the distributor, but then it has to actually sell,” Murray said.
And it sold.
Melody Crisp, Coronado’s VP of marketing, told Brewbound that Weekend Vibes, an IPA that won the bronze medal in the American-style IPA category at the 2019 Great American Beer Festival, drove much of Coronado’s growth last year. The company’s other top seller was Orange Ave. Wit, a witbier with orange zest, which is a nod to the orange trees that lined Coronado Island’s main drag. Double IPA Never Better and hazy pale ale Leisure Lagoon, both released in 2019, contributed to growth as well.
To keep the momentum going in 2020, Coronado is focusing its efforts on three offerings: Weekend Vibes, Orange Ave. Wit and Salty Crew Blonde Ale, a collaboration with San Diego-based apparel company Salty Crew.
Salty Crew is just one of several collaborative products in Coronado’s pipeline in 2020.
“Working with Salty Crew, the synergy really lined up well. They’re a homegrown San Diego brand, the same as us,” Crisp said. “Their lifestyle consumer is really based around sports and fishing and being on the water and appreciating all the different aspects of water life, and for us, being a brewery born on Coronado Island, it just made a lot of sense.”
The team at Salty Crew, which sells apparel and accessories for men and boys for fishing and surfing, tasted test batches of the beer and helped shape its flavor profile. The beer, a blonde ale that checks in at 4.5% ABV, fits a niche within Coronado’s portfolio.
“As great as IPAs are, there’s a need for some respite from all the hop overload, so having something like a blonde ale in the portfolio was really great for us,” Crisp said.
In addition to its eponymous beer, the partnership with Salty Crew gives Coronado the ability to collaborate on content for both brands’ social media platforms. Marketing support for Salty Crew includes collaboration with influencers and Salty Crew ambassadors, co-hosting movie launch events with the Salty Crew team, featuring Salty Crew as the lead beer in Coronado’s partnership with the San Diego Padres at Petco Park and paid and organic social media efforts on Instagram, Google Search and Youtube.
“Salty Crew is reaching a new audience of people who might not be familiar with the Coronado brand,” Crisp said. “It’s been a win-win.”
In addition to the Salty Crew collaboration, Coronado will release a two-beer series with Pizza Port Brewing called Beers Between Piers. South of the Pier IPA will launch later this month, while North of the Pier IPA will roll out in May.
“In San Diego, we have a very promiscuous beer drinker,” Murray said. “They like to jump around so collaborations are a great way to ensure that Coronado is on the forefront.”
Additional collaborations are planned with Maui Brewing, Revision Brewing and 32 North Brewing, Murray said. These partnerships reflect Coronado’s objective of staying relative in its home market.
“The real ticket is winning in our backyard,” Murray said. “We want to win big in San Diego and Southern California.”
Coronado’s footprint extends to 10 states, however, the company’s focus is on California, where seven of its 12 sales employees are based. Earlier this month, Coronado hired a second sales representative to cover the Los Angeles and Ventura market, doubling its efforts there.
In addition to the announcement of Murray’s appointment as CEO last month, Coronado also restructured its leadership team. Director of sales Clinton Smith was promoted to chief commercial officer, and chief financial officer Kate Zittere and chief retail officer Kasey Chapman round out the C-suite. Both Crisp and VP of business development Eddie Buchannon were promoted to their vice president roles.
Buchannon’s focus is on large grocers and international sales, an area where Coronado sees potential for growth.
“We’re seeing a lot of opportunity in China and Australia,” Murray said. “Those areas are starting to grow.”
Although Murray is now at the helm of the 24-year-old craft brewery, Coronado co-founders Rick and Ron Chapman remain involved as members of the board of directors and are still daily fixtures at the brewery and the company’s three retail locations.
“It’s part of our culture here to have the founders really involved,” Murray said. “It’s such a blessing.”