Colorado’s Oskar Blues plans to keep its foot firmly pressed on the gas pedal in 2015, aiming for another year of double-digit growth, company officials told Brewbound.
Fresh off a year in which the craft brewery grew overall depletions by 28 percent, Oskar Blues – which also operates a manufacturing facility in North Carolina – will look to brew more than 190,000 barrels and grow shipments by more than 35 percent this year.
Along the way, the company plans to improve its presence in retail chains, enter a handful of new markets and continue to improve its relationships with a growing number of wholesalers throughout the country.
“In the past, we have done things the hard way,” said Lou Romano, Oskar Blues’ national sales director. “We have gone out and sold beer by hand to every single one of these independent accounts. We weren’t in front of these chain buyers as frequently and, as we look at all of our opportunities for growth, it is the single largest area for us to make substantial increases in.”
Oskar Blues has already expanded into Iowa, Nebraska and downstate Illinois and the company plans to enter Maine and Vermont as well as a handful of yet-to-be-named territories later this year.
The addition of those new markets, coupled with international expansion opportunities and growth forecasts of 18 percent in existing markets, could push Oskar Blues over the 200,000-barrel mark in 2015, Romano said.
While the company made 149,000 barrels in 2014 (up from 119,000 barrels the year prior), it missed a stated goal of making more than 180,000 barrels for the year.
So what will be different this time around?
“I think last year when we all stated that goal of 180,000 barrels, we know that was our capacity and we went for it,” Romano said. “But it would have required everything coming together exactly in the right moment of time. This year we have a much more well thought out plan, we have the people in place and we have sat down and completed an extensive business planning process with our wholesalers.”
Oskar Blues marketing director Chad Melis said the company will continue to “be aggressive,” and search for new opportunities as it works to become a national brand.
In the process, Oskar Blues will also join a growing list of craft brewers to rollout a year-round session IPA – the 4.9 percent ABV “Pinner”.
Pinner, along with flagship offerings like Dale’s Pale Ale, Mama’s Little Yella Pils and Old Chub strong ale, allows Oskar Blues an opportunity to offer its distributors a simple portfolio of core products to push behind, Romano said.
“Rather than throwing a bunch of things at the wall to see what sticks, we have a very strong flagship in Dale’s that, fortunately, continues to be our horse,” Romano said. “The time to sell, for our wholesalers, is a smaller piece of the pie. We want to make it easier on them and their salespeople to know what they need to do for Oskar Blues.”
That streamlined approach has helped the company achieve hockey stick growth curve over the last three years. The company made just 59,000 barrels of beer in 2011.
Now with 62 dedicated salespeople, Romano hopes to see the trend continue.
“I feel like we have done our due-diligence this year to sit down and make sure we go after the accounts where we should be already,” he said.
As for eclipsing that 190,000-barrel mark, Romano said, “I’ll be disappointed if we don’t get there.”