We’re set for expansion after Covid crisis canned beer success
In an interview with the Press Association Wim explained how the future of our brewery was plunged into uncertainty last March by the onset of the pandemic. Last year had started really well and, prior to the coronavirus outbreak, we were excited about 2020.
“January, which is normally a dead month for us, was better than the year before, February was fantastic. We were really excited about having a very good year,” he said. “We were building up to St Patrick’s Day so we had our warehouse full of kegs and then all of a sudden we got the lockdown announcement.”
“Seventy-two percent of our customers were effectively gone overnight – that includes all the bars, restaurants. We do a bit of contract brewing; that was gone. Export sales finished and even festivals. We normally have a festival around St Patrick’s Day here in Howth and we do the Big Grill in town (in August) and it was all over. We were very worried.”
It was a stressful time for us as not only were we anxious about the Irish market, but also our biggest export market; Lombardy in Italy. “It has gotten very bad there again in the second wave so our export sales are way down,” he said. “They were supposed to have doubled.”
However, as Wim explained, sales started to improve when people changed their shopping habits. “At first we were all buying toilet paper but then we started buying a lot of beer as well. We used to do 40% in kegs, 20% in bottles and maybe 30% or 40% in cans. Now it was 95%-99% cans so we had to change and adapt our whole product mix.”
“Even though we lost 70% of our customers, our sales were only down 20% or 30%.”
To say we were relieved when we ended up being busy for most of 2020, despite ongoing Covid-19 public health restrictions, would be an understatement! We hope will be able to maintain the gains in retail sales of cans, even if there’s a slight dip in off-licence sales, post-Covid.
“For that reason we decided to invest in a canning line. We’re changing our whole production area, we’re taking on a unit next door to facilitate this canning, and we’re actually spending a bit of money. Adding the new canning line will allow us to maintain our employment and even increase it as the pandemic continues.”