“I was always focused on ensuring the quality of our beer and never really paid much attention to the branding of the actual package,” he said. “We’ve heard from some customers that it feels like ‘joke beer,’ or that one of the ‘big guys’ was making it. We decided that we need to focus on changing that and presenting a package that is more stylish.”
Colby will have the chance to refresh the Sandpoint, Idaho-based brand when the company introduces a new can package later this month. In place of Colby’s yellow labrador, Ben, which had been on the front of most Laughing Dog products, new stylized text will grace the front of its IPA and 219 cans.
“I think now that we have an opportunity to change the labels to feel more modern, we can encourage more people to pick up our beer and try it,” he said.
The decision to add cans to the mix was based largely on cost, Colby said.
“There is a problem with 12 oz. packaging,” he said. “Your cost of goods are so high. We wanted to preserve the 12 oz. package but lower our cost and so, five years ago we began looking at cans.”
At the time, not many craft beer companies were canning their suds and Colby said his distributors didn’t like the package. So they waited.
“As the cost of raw materials went up, we began looking at cans again,” he said. “Now we are finally able to pull the trigger on this. The ease of use, lower price to consumer and lower costs of goods really makes sense.”
But it’s only a temporary solution.
“We are continuing to grow and have been pushing maximum capacity for about 7 months now,” he said. “We can’t keep up that pace forever and it’s fueling the need for a larger expansion.”
Laughing Dog is currently evaluating an option to build a new brewery on an 18,000 square-foot property across the street from its current location. The company currently produces its beer in a 6,400 square-foot facility and stores finished products in a 4,000 square-foot warehouse located one mile away from the brewery. The new space would allow Laughing Dog to combine the two facilities and to install larger brewing and fermentation equipment and its own canning line.
“We are on track to produce 7,000 barrels this year,” Colby said. “The new facility could be scaled to about 30,000 or 40,000 barrels.”
Colby estimates that the expansion will cost upwards of $5 million, about $1 million of which will be spent on new equipment. The project, which might also include a brewpub partnership with a local restaurateur, will be financed through a combination of cash flow, bank loans and private investment, he said.
Laughing Dog hopes to break ground on construction this fall and be operational before next summer. The company said it anticipates 2013 revenue will eclipse $2 million, including $250,000 in tap room sales.